South African workers launch ‘Scrap New Labour Laws’ campaign

NUMSA marching during a recent strike – the new labour laws ‘will make it impossible to go on strike’
NUMSA marching during a recent strike – the new labour laws ‘will make it impossible to go on strike’

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) are marching in Gauteng today, Human Rights Day, to protest against the proposed new labour laws that come into effect in May.

In a statement, Numsa national spokesperson, Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, said the union is marching as part of a coalition of workers’ organisations that has come together as part of the ‘Scrap the New Labour Laws’ campaign. ‘The ANC government wants to change the labour law to make it impossible for workers to go on strike. ‘We call on all workers to defend this constitutional right to strike and join us as we march on March 21, to remind the state that workers’ rights are human rights,’ she said.

Hlubi-Majola condemned the changes to the legislation and blamed them on recently appointed President Cyril Ramaphosa. ‘The fallout of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ascension into office has begun. ‘State capture has slipped from the grasp of the Guptas and into the familiar embrace of white monopoly capital which opened its pockets to see the end of Zuma’s misrule,’ she said.

‘Now it’s time for Ramaphosa to follow through on his promises.

‘First amongst these promises is the passage of new labour law amendments that will see workers’ right to strike curbed, their organisations tied up by petty regulations and a national minimum wage that undercuts existing sectoral determinations.’ Hlubi-Majola said the new laws would force workers to hold secret ballots and vote before they could go on strike. ‘This will make it impossible for us to go on strike,’ she said.

She said the new laws would also allow the Department of Labour to end a strike without consultation. ‘The minister of labour can go to court to get an interdict to end a strike without consulting unions.’ Hlubi-Majola said the new laws also legalise ‘slave wages’ through the National Minimum Wage of R20 per hour.

She said Expanded Public Works workers (EPWP) would earn R11 per hour; Domestic workers R15 per hour; and farm workers R18 per hour. ‘We want a living wage! Why pay workers R20 per hour, when CEOs earn R8,625 per hour! We reject the NMW,’ she said.

Hlubi-Majola said the NMW would cause mass retrenchments. ‘NUMSA has managed to negotiate higher wages in many sectors it organises in. Those who earn more will lose their jobs. ‘These changes will affect every worker and their families. But we were not consulted on these decisions.’

She added that the proposals were agreed to at NEDLAC with the help of ‘sell out’ trade unions COSATU, FEDUSA and NACTU. ‘This will have a major impact on our families. First they attacked us by increasing VAT, and now they want to make it impossible for us to strike to negotiate higher wages and better working conditions. ‘They want to take away the only weapon we have to make our lives better.’

Hlubi-Majola said NUMSA will continue to fight in the courts and on the streets to defend workers’ rights. ‘We have joined up with 20 other progressive pro-working class movements to defend the rights of all workers, as part of the #ScrapNewLabourLaws Campaign,’ she said. The march is scheduled for today, Wednesday, March 21, with the assembly point at Mary Fitzgerald Square, Newtown Johannesburg.

Meanwhile, The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) held a scheduled meeting of its National Executive Committee (NEC) from 16-18 March 2018, attended by delegates from its affiliated unions and provincial structures and national office bearers. The first issue discussed was: Scrap The New Labour Laws Campaign: Workers’ hard-won gains are under attack!

The NEC met under the dark shadow of the biggest threat to South African workers since 1994.

Government, employers and leaders of labour organisations participating in NEDLAC signed a deal behind the backs of the workers to introduce new laws, which, if passed by Parliament, will see workers’ constitutional right to strike curbed, their organisations tied up by petty regulations designed to ensure that workers never – or find it very difficult to – exercise their constitutional guaranteed right to strike.

They have also signed a deal to introduce a national minimum wage that undercuts existing sectoral determinations and legitimises poverty pay and also entrenches the apartheid wage structure. This is a declaration of war by employers, big business and their stooges in the leadership of sweetheart unions. These union leaders did this without a mandate even from their own members worst of all from workers who will be directly affected by these draconian provisions.

SAFTU insists: ‘We shall be marching in Johannesburg on Wednesday 21 March, Human Rights Day, to remind this government that Workers’ Rights are Human Rights, and in Cape Town in a march to Parliament on 12 April and then organising a national general strike on 25 April and convening Provincial Shop Stewards Council in all provinces and march in all major city centres of our country.

• The National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) decision to prosecute former president Jacob Zuma ‘is an epic victory for the unions, social movements, and ordinary citizens who have for years been demanding action against these criminals,’ the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) said on Saturday. SAFTU ‘enthusiastically’ welcomed the long-overdue decision of the NPA to prosecute Zuma on 16 charges of corruption, money laundering, and racketeering in connection with the controversial multi-million-rand arms deal scandal in the late 1990s, they said in a statement.

‘At long last the tide has turned against a political leader who bankrupted the nation through his systematic looting of the country to enrich himself, his family, and his cronies at the expense of the people, especially workers and the poor. ‘While Zuma, the Guptas and Co amassed millions of rand, the poor faced soaring unemployment, deepening poverty, and obscene levels of inequality,’ SAFTU said.

Zuma also ‘corrupted’ public institutions, including the NPA, South African Revenue Service (SARS), and the Hawks, whose constitutional rule should years ago have been enforcing the Constitution and the law by prosecuting the corrupters, ‘but who used their positions to do everything possible to protect the people they should have been arresting.

‘There was a deliberate effort to ensure that no such charges were ever brought,’ SAFTU continued. ‘The very fact that the NPA can say today that “there are reasonable prospects of a successful prosecution of Mr Zuma” on the corruption charges proves that there always was a case, since nothing has changed since 2009 when the charges were withdrawn – “unlawfully” and “irrationally” – according to the Supreme Court of Appeal,’ SAFTU went on.

‘This is an epic victory for the unions, social movements, and ordinary citizens who have for years been demanding action against these criminals. ‘They had to fight an African National Congress, its office bearers, NEC, parliamentary caucus, and its then deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, who all for years defeated every attempt to bring Zuma to justice and put a stop to the plundering of the country, and, with a few honourable exceptions, did not lift a finger to condemn the looters,’ SAFTU said.