The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) says the petrol increase would disproportionately impact families of poor workers who have been forced to rely on road transport due to the collapse of the Passenger Railway of South Africa (Prasa).
The federation’s general-secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, said on Wednesday, this was certainly going to add to the already burdened middle-class households who were languishing in unsustainable debt due to high debt servicing costs.
Vavi stated: ‘We are deeply concerned over the recent announcement of petrol and diesel price hikes, set to take effect from today.
‘The increase, with unleaded petrol rising by 75 cents a litre and diesel by up to 73 cents a litre, poses significant challenges to the already burdensome high cost of living experienced by South African working people.
‘These hikes will undoubtedly have an effect on the everyday lives of motorists and commuters.
The inland prices of 95 unleaded petrol going up to Rand 23.24 a litre and diesel prices soaring to Rand 21.36 a litre, will heighten the financial strain on households that are already grappling with economic pressures of high interest rates and food prices,’ said Vavi.
On Tuesday, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe announced that the price of petrol and diesel increased by 70-75 cents on Wednesday, following the latest price adjustment.
Meanwhile, The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) in Gauteng is alarmed by the shocking revelation that there is a shortage of fire engines and trucks in the City of Johannesburg.
The fact that, currently, there are only a maximum of ten(10) fully functioning fire engines and trucks for the entire city, is a matter of grave concern and poses a severe threat to the safety and well-being of residents.
Firefighting equipment plays a crucial role in responding to emergencies and safeguarding communities from the devastating impact of fires, especially taking into consideration the tragic events of fire outbreaks that have befell the inner-city recently.
The scarcity of operational fire engines and trucks in Johannesburg raises serious questions about the city’s preparedness and ability to handle emergency situations effectively.
Judging from the city’s evident incapacitated response to fires, the Federation calls for the municipality to urgently address this matter.
COSATU calls for a comprehensive assessment of the current state of all fire engines and trucks in the city, to determine the extent of the shortage and prioritise necessary repairs or replacements and allocate sufficient budgetary resources to procure new fire engines and trucks.
These changes can ensure that the fire department is adequately equipped to respond to emergencies across the City.
It must also provide ongoing training for firefighters and ensure that there are sufficient trained personnel to operate and maintain the fire engines and trucks.
COSATU Gauteng will closely monitor the developments related to this issue and engage with relevant authorities to ensure that the lives of workers and the broader community are addressed promptly and comprehensively.
- South African labour unions have welcomed the national minimum wage increase and urged employers and domestic workers alike to ensure salaries are raised accordingly.
Employment and Labour Minister Thulasi Nxesi gazetted an increase of 8.5 per cent to the minimum wage, set to take effect in March.
The national minimum wage will go up from Rand 25.42 to Rand 27.58 per hour from 1st March 2024.
Vulnerable employees, such as domestic and farm workers, must receive remuneration at this prescribed level, while those employed under the Expanded Public Works Programme should be paid a minimum wage of Rand 15 and Rand 16 per hour.
Labour federations the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) have welcomed the recent adjustment.
However, SAFTU’s Trevor Shaku said that the current minimum wage fell short of providing workers and their families with a decent standard of living.
‘The current minimum wage is inadequate to cover even a basic household food basket, not to mention hygienic products, rent, municipal services, and transportation to work and school.
‘These are fundamental necessities that sustain a worker and enable them to offer their labour power daily.’
SAFTU said employers paying below the minimum wage would face fines.
Meanwhile, the above-inflation increase in the minimum wage for domestic workers comes at a time when those who can employ them are struggling financially.
- Following a public outcry over the high number of unemployed doctors in the country, Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla claimed that the department did not have the money to employ them, but that more posts would soon become available.
Phaahla said: ‘As government, we would really wish for a situation where all graduates who have completed all these statutory requirements of internships and community service can get immediate employment in the public health sector, but of course, they do face a number of challenges in that regard.
‘We have to check with provinces where there are available posts and provinces have to advertise the posts, we then work with them to identify where there are vacancies, and we share that information with organisations and unions representing doctors.
‘There is a lot of pressure on the budgets, another challenge came with the 7.5 per cent pay rise for doctors.
‘There has been a continuous improvement in the qualification of doctors and their employment in the public service but sometimes hospital budgets are not high enough to employ enough qualified doctors.
‘Limpopo province tried to fit some more opportunities by reorganising the overtime component to structure it so that it can spread the money out to more people so they can have more people employed, but then the trade union is challenging that.
‘We are working with provinces and identifying vacancies so that we can advise those who approach us about where they can apply.’
The shortages are having a big effect at a time when diseases linked to poverty and poor living conditions are increasing
The country recorded 46 cholera cases between 1st January and 1st February 2024.
These included two cases in Limpopo and one in Gauteng.
Phaala added: ‘Last week, Limpopo identified two (infected) siblings in the Blouberg local municipality.
‘There are other people presenting symptoms so we are working with the province to identify and trace contacts in the family and the surrounding areas so that we can find the source.
Phaahla concluded that there was no need for panic as the country was not experiencing a widespread outbreak.
However, the department called for people to maintain proper personal hygiene, and especially children at home and in schools.