Communication Workers Union (CWU) acknowledges the fact that the 2021 Budget Speech was delivered under difficult economic conditions here and around the world in the recent times. The Coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on our economy that led to massive job reductions. According to the reports, the South African unemployment rate jumped to a new record high of 32% in the fourth quarter of 2020, from the 30.8% recorded in the third quarter of the same year.
However, according to the expanded definition of unemployment which includes those discouraged from seeking employment, 42.6% (11.1 million people) were without jobs between October and December 2020. As CWU, naturally we expected a budget that will be pro-poor and that aimed at stimulating economic growth that will absorb the labour market. Nevertheless, we were exposed to a budget that is anti-poor and represents interests of big cooperates. The coronavirus pandemic further exposed the inequalities in our society and exacerbated the high rate of unemployment within a short space of time. The situation needed an urgent state intervention to effectively respond to these challenges. In our view, there are no clear action plans for implementation of the economic recovery. Indeed, the Budget plan delivered by Minister Tito Mboweni presented acute economic austerities thus including but not limited to eroding workers’ bargaining rights and job reductions. The celebrations for the tax reforms that gave relief through raising the personal income tax bracket by 5% were short-lived because the increase on fuel means that all goods using the roads infrastructure for logistical and delivery purposes, will increase their tariffs and will have an impact on products such as bread, flower and so forth. The fuel levy increase will directly impact on workers’ commuting costs.
We remain concerned about the deteriorating infrastructure at the SOE’s, putting workers lives at risk and compromising on service delivery. The minister ignored this backbone of our economy and prioritised the upgrades of boarder gates demonstrating that our priorities are not in touch with reality. The budget is an attack on the poor of the poorest and on the working people of South Africa.
As CWU, we were hopeful after the State of the Nation’s address (SONA) as the President of the Republic announced a move to implement digital migration rollout which is supposed to kick off in March 2021, and be concluded within 12 months time. This is a long overdue project which was on the table since the late Minister Matsepe Casaburri’s era’s, however the state failed dismally on implementation. The only relevant vehicle to deliver on this project is a troubled SABC which is currently cutting its workforce that was supposed to facilitate the implementation of the digital migration. The failures of the state led to a declining revenue at the Public Broadcaster and the exclusion of the poor on a diverse broadcasting platform. This further bottle necked SENTECH in terms of growth and competition by international standards. The announcement for digital migration is welcomed by all progressive stakeholders in the industry, however the budget speech suggests that there is no interrelations between SONA and the Budget speech itself. And by extension, it means the SONA was just another lip service. The digital migration is actually an answer in responding to (Sec 189 of the LRA) retrenchments at SABC, however through Mboweni, workers and the public are left to hang dry. The President further made commitments on the SA Connect project, which is the programme to roll out broadband to schools, hospitals, police stations and other government facilities. But the Broadband Infraco, one of the SOE’s responsible to execute the task was
not allocated any budget to deliver on these promises. We are shocked that the South African Post Office (SAPO) was only located R504 million for Universal Service Obligations (USO), which excludes the operations. The finance minister knows the dire situation of the SOE, therefore not allocating funding for operations is irrational. There can be no USO without operations, which indicates that the budget was not carefully planned on in this area.
The budget speech clearly painted that the SONA was another political speech with no tangible outcomes for the working class, but great news to those who own means of production..
Issued by the office of the General Secretary CWU
CWU General Secretary
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