Difficult and uncertain times lie ahead for the working class amid higher taxes, a worrying credit downgrade and declining employment figures, the Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) warned on May Day.

The trade union said the SA Reserve Bank had predicted the next two years, in particular, would be challenging as household consumption growth dropped to an average of just over 1% for the past three years compared to the 3.4%, on average, since 1994.

Fedusa’s general secretary Dennis George said the union’s affiliates were pushing for “real wage gains” in order to boost disposable incomes of households.

Further bad news, he said, was that employment was projected to decline until the middle of 2019, due to the downgrade.

“The challenges confronting the economy and working people in the country could be directly blamed on the irresponsible and disastrous appointments of the new finance ministers by President Jacob Zuma since 2015,” George said.

“Investment was the worst performing component of GDP in 2016 and is forecast to lag again in 2017 based on the downgrade from investment grade to junk status. It is obvious that the ANC government under President (Jacob) Zuma has no understanding of how to manage the economy,” he added.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane also laid into Zuma at the party’s Workers’ Day rally at the Blue Downs stadium on Monday.

“Our parents never wanted us to live in junk status, they didn’t want to be led by somebody who has led us to that junk status. We must say as South Africans, we will not remain in junk status,” Maimane told hundreds of supporters clad in the party’s colours.

“The best way to come out of junk status is to remove a junk party; remove the ANC,” he said.

Maimane said he would “spend my life modernising our economy”.

“We want a sector that will ensure that we build an economy that is advanced,” he said. “South Africa must belong to the people of South Africa. Not to the Guptas, not to the Russians and in fact, not even to Jacob Zuma.

“Ours is to build a nation that works, because it’s not good enough when our people are not working. We are not yet free until our people are able to find work. That is why I’m here to tell you we are not yet satisfied with our economy. We are not satisfied with our government until a time when our economy is growing at more than five percent, we are still far from creating the work that we need to create for our people.”

Meanwhile, the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu), which also commemorated Workers’ Day, said it honoured the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) for its role in the struggle for workers’ rights.

“However, it is sad to note that workers in South Africa are slowly shifting from the goal of building unity,” the union said.