‘Reject minimum wage exploitation’ 4 SAFTU unions meet to discuss ANC

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THE FOUR oldest trade unions affiliated to SAFTU gathered at Ngwelezana Community Hall last week to reflect on what South Africa’s workers have gained since the ‘dawn of democracy’ (marked by the ANC’s first coming to power).

KZN SAFTU Secretary, Moses Mosutsoe, said they were concerned about the slow progress made by government in addressing worker demands. It is in this context that the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) sees the ‘minimum wage’ as an insult to South African workers.

Rejecting the minimum wage, the union body labelled it as a form of exploitation of workers – as some sectors were paid just R11 per hour.

‘The minimum wage allows employers to pay workers R18 and R11 per hour. We invited the oldest unions such as the South African Policing Union (SAPU), National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NUPSAW), National Union of Metal workers of South Africa (NUMSA), and Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU).’

Mosutsoe continued: ‘We wanted them to tell us whether workers’ rights have been improved or not. As SAFTU we believed this country is going backwards in terms of labour laws.

‘Recently President Cyril Ramaphosa signed a law that forces workers to go to a ballot before going on strike. However, community members are not forced to do a ballot before service delivery protests.

‘We feel that infringes on our rights as workers,’ insisted Mosutsoe.

  • Meanwhile South Africa’s embattled economy could be hurt further when activity in the country’s busiest ports grinds to a halt with a planned protest by members of the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu), on Thursday.

The union warned on Tuesday that it would embark on a total shutdown of the country’s ports over salary discrepancies at Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), where it claims whites earn more than their black colleagues.

The affected facilities include the port of Durban, one of the busiest ports in Africa, Richards Bay, Cape Town, East London, Port Elizabeth, Saldanha Bay and Mossel Bay.

Satawu representative at TNPA, Reginald Goba, said about 300 employees were expected to down tools. They include marine pilots who help steer ships from the ocean into the ports and vice versa; tug masters, who assist pilots; and chief marine engineers, who maintain the ships and operate the engines.

Goba said these skill-sets are such that their withdrawal would result in a ‘total shutdown at all ports.

‘On average the mariners move three ships per two-hour interval,’ he said. ‘These vessels ferry goods worth millions of rand, bringing the potential loss due to the strike action to billions of rand.’

Goba stressed that the economy, which grew by 0.8% in 2018 and is projected to grow to 1.3% and 1.7% in 2019 and 2020, respectively, ‘will come to a standstill so they can take us seriously’.

TNPA acting CEO Nozipho Mdawe said: ‘We have assessed the impact of the strike action and have activated contingency measures though our business continuity plans.’

She said TNPA would continually update its customers ‘and directly engage with them on shipping matters to ensure minimum disruption to port operations’.

Satawu, a union federation Cosatu affiliate, had served TNPA with a strike notice on Monday after the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration issued a certificate in April.

‘When you ask the management about the race/pay discrepancy, they argue and say: ‘‘No, this person negotiated better than you”,’ he told Business Day on Tuesday.

‘There are instances where the pay gap between two colleagues, who are on the same level, is like R500,000 per annum. We can’t accept that.’

He said two meetings between Satawu and TNPA failed to reach a satisfactory agreement, despite the company ‘admitting to pay discrepancies across all divisions’.

Satawu has threatened to embark on a secondary strike if management does not address its issues by June 3.

  • A 2018 report by PwC has found that South Africa’s ports outshine the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa’s, with Durban ranked 25th in the world in attractiveness.

Ports are an important aspect of infrastructure in attracting foreign direct investment. The report found that a 25% improvement in port performance could increase a country’s GDP by 2%.

It said Transnet invested almost R1bn in port and freight infrastructure maintenance and acquisition of cranes, tipplers and dredgers in SA ports in 2017.

At the same time thousands of South African seafarers who faced being axed from the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO’s) ‘white list’, can breathe easy again after the organisation agreed to shelve changes to the list for the next two years.

This means the 5,000 South African-trained seafarers and South African flagged ships can continue to work in international shipping.

The IMO’s backtracking occurred during a recent meeting of the organisation where several of the 80 countries that stood to be removed from the white list – including major maritime nations like the Philippines, the Netherlands and the UK – raised serious concerns about the issue.

Sobantu Tilayi, acting CEO of the SA Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa), told Fin24 on Monday that the IMO had conceded that the publishing of the white list had not followed due process.

‘There were 80 countries that were very upset. They (IMO) made a diplomatic boo-boo; a big one, in fact,’ Tilayi said.

‘There were many countries lamenting the process, but at least now after the meeting we have a road map that is clear on how the process ought to be done.

‘The white list is still there, but this process pushes the delisting two years away, so we will have time to comply and put something robust in place, as the IMO requires.’

The prospect of being axed from the white list emerged from amendments to the IMO’s International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STWC) that sets the minimum qualification standards for masters, officers and watch personnel on seagoing merchant ships.

In February, the IMO had issued a circular expressing its intention to remove from the register, or ‘white list’, all those countries that did not comply with the amendments to the STCW convention. South Africa was one of 80 countries that stood to be axed.

‘This caused panic,’ Tilayi said.

However, at the recent IMO meeting, where nations concerned put their case, it was concluded that the drawing up of the list of countries for de-listing from the STWC’s white list had not followed due process.

‘The IMO then agreed to withdraw the list of affected countries and to embark on a process that is fair and transparent over the next year or two,’ Tilayi said.

This meant that the list would no longer be presented to the IMO Maritime Safety Committee in June.

‘So South Africa is no longer facing a threat of being delisted from the white list.’