Trade union federation COSATU says South Africa’s ‘rigged’ economy is not worth saving at the expense of its resolution to go on a national strike this week.
The group’s leadership is expected to give a briefing on the details of the strike on Monday morning.
The strike, they say, was prompted by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s apparent refusal to heed the workers’ call to adjust public service wages as per the resolutions stakeholders signed at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) in May 2018.
Speaking to the media ahead of the briefing, COSATU spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said public service unions had exhausted all avenues to force government to make good on its commitment, to no avail.
The strike comes a week after it emerged that 2,2 million jobs were lost during the second quarter of this year, in an economic loss Sats SA attributed to people becoming economically inactive over the lockdown period. After three months of economically restrictive lock down Alert levels, the country’s GDP shrunk by 16.4% by June.
When asked if COSAU was not concerned their strike would affect the economy, Pamla argued that this economy was effectively non-existent given how much of it is run on debt, and since it was rigged against the working class and the poor, it was not an economy legitimate enough to save.
“When you have a rigged system that is being mismanaged, then what is there to save? The 2,2 million jobs lost were not even getting credit-worthy salaries. You cannot have an economy that relies 60% on consumer spending and where most salaries are going towards debt, and we still pretend that we have an economy.
“The economy has not grown in a decade, it has been hemorrhaging jobs and not growing and that is part of a system that is rigged.”
He also opined that most of the job losses this year may not have been legitimate retrenchments, but attempts by companies to replace people with automation, using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse.
Since the 2018 resolution was supposed to be in effect from April this year, Cosatu and government stakeholders have been at odds after numerous attempts to have them honor the commitment to wage increases.
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni sparked the ire of unions in February when he announced a position government had taken on the plans to cut R160 billion off the public sector wage bill.