SAFTU demonstration for a 1,500 Rand Basic Income Grant

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SAFTU demonstration for a 1,500 Rand Basic Income Grant

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) is opposing plans by the South African ANC government to replace the Social Relief of Distress Grant (SRD Grant) with the job seekers grant and household grant.

SAFTU said: ‘Though these proposed grants target some members of the group that is currently receiving the SRD Grants, it is now only targeting a fraction of them by bringing new measures and means test to limit access to these grants.

‘Having categorised the currently poor people who are receiving the SRD Grants into three groups, the job seekers grant will target the middle group that is said to be poor or has some constraints.

‘Currently, this group constitute 4,1 million of the current SRDG recipients and will proceed to qualify for the job seeker grant of 350 Rands in case they do not find a job in the government employment programmes such as Expanded Public Works programme or Presidential Employment Initiative.

‘But government will not be able to absolutely and with certainty determine all those who ‘‘deserve’’ this grant.

‘It will be difficult to build a database for all the job seekers, and people will have to show they have sought work.

‘In other words, this criterion will be discriminatory and exclusionary.

‘It will overwhelmingly exclude those who did not apply for the government employment programmes, but ‘‘deserve’’ the grant because of unemployment and poverty.

‘Most importantly, the group of 4.6 million current SRD grant beneficiaries who are regarded as too poor and marginalised to seek work, will not qualify for the grant; nor will the group of 1.9 million ‘‘less poor’’ beneficiaries, because they are regarded as better off.

‘So 62 per cent of current SRD beneficiaries would be excluded from the jobseekers grant!

‘In 2021, SAFTU rejected a proposal by Treasury to introduce a family grant.

‘This household grant appears to be a family grant smuggled through a different jargon. In addition, now it is aimed at relieving the category labelled as those who are ‘‘extremely poor’’ that constitute 4.6 million of the current recipients of SRD Grants.

‘In 2021, we warned that the family grant will exclude more unemployed people, will introduce a burdensome ‘‘means test’’ on income, and will further penalise women due to the way South African capitalism has amplified patriarchy at the household level, often preventing women from getting access to funds and causing strife in families.

‘Based on this reason, we rejected the ‘‘family grant’’, and so we do today reject the proposed “household grant”.

‘The presidency and national treasury’s prejudice against the BIG on the basis that it is unaffordable is unacceptable. That our government acts in line with the dictates outlined by global financial institutions such as the World Bank, serves to demonstrate in whose interests the ANC government is ruling.

‘Indeed, the proposal of job seekers was copied directly from the playbook of World Bank which incorporated the proposal for a R350 jobseekers grant aimed at only 3.8 million active workseekers, to replace the SRD grant in its Country Partnership to South Africa report in 2021.

‘SAFTU reiterates its demand for a Basic Income Grant (BIG) to be introduced progressively at 1,500 Rands.

‘It is our belief that in turn, BIG will have positive multiplier effects in the economy by boosting demand and production, whilst relieving poverty among the unemployed.

‘We further reiterate that government must introduce a 1 trillion stimulus Rands package that is people-centred and worker-centred.

‘This will allow government to intervene in the economy including by introducing a Basic Income Grant and increase the public sector wage bill for public service especially frontline workers, fill the 200,000 vacancies and drive employment creation through such programmes as housing brigades, environmental restoration (such as climate resilience investment) and other public-good infrastructure programmes.

‘The ANC government must abandon its austerity policies and invest in the health, education and stability of our poor and working-class masses.

‘This stimulus will boost consumer demand, and in the event that capitalists do not increase general prices of goods and services, leads to the creation of more jobs.

Meanwhile, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) is also calling for South African government to introduce the universal Basic Income Grant.

NEHAWU said in a statement: ‘As NEHAWU, our support for the introduction of the universal basic income grant is based on the urgent need to address the economic crisis and the crisis of social reproduction facing nearly half of our population in the peripheral townships and rural areas, afflicting the working class youth and women in particular.

‘This is evident with high levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

‘The introduction of the SRD Grant was a decisive intervention especially for working-class families that could not support their livelihoods and indeed the SRD Grant made a significant difference to many of our people confronted with unemployment and poverty.

‘As NEHAWU, we strongly believe that the government should use the SRD Grant as the basis for expanding into a universal basic income grant in the quest of providing social security for all of our people.

‘The universal basic income grant will provide our people with dignified livelihoods and social protection, said NEHAWU.

‘Equally, we want to register our fundamental opposition to the plans by the government and National Treasury to change the SRD Grant to a ‘‘jobseekers’’ grant in line with proposals of the World Bank. We reject this with the contempt it deserves.

‘The plan by the government and treasury will have dire consequences for millions of our people who receive the SRD Grant, if it were to be changed from its current framework.

‘Instead of prioritising concrete solutions to the deepening inequalities, poverty and rising unemployment the Treasury is doing this.

‘We call on the ANC-led government to accelerate the introduction of the universal Basic Income Grant as part of phasing in a comprehensive social security system in line with resolutions of its own consecutive national conferences.’

Elsewhere, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has indignantly called on the government to stop subsidising bus company Putco after it threatened to dismiss about 1,000 drivers demanding a six per cent wage increase and payment of outstanding bonuses from 2020.

Throwing its weight behind its 1,400 members at Putco, Numsa said it rejected the intention to dismiss workers after they deliberately frustrated them.

Numsa’s Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said in a statement: ‘The union is left with no choice but to call on Transport minister Fikile Mbalula to intervene in the current impasse.

‘The department for transport in our view cannot continue to pay and subsidise a bus company that is anti-worker, union bashing, and selfish to the extreme as clearly its senior management is only prepared to pocket every rand and cent of the cash flow of that company, and share nothing with workers.

‘The union is prepared to negotiate a position where workers must be paid their money, and this could be phased in through a process that can be negotiated with workers, but the executive management and the CEO chose to be extremely rude and arrogant. As a result the meeting collapsed as they walked out of the meeting without any solution.’