The year 2017 marks exactly 41 years since the heroics of the 1976 generation. The 1976 generation stood and fought gallantly against a brutal system that was designed to dehumanise the already disenfranchised majority. On the 16th of June in 1976, thousands of young people took it upon themselves and confronted the brutal apartheid system and the Bantu Education policy in particular.
As young workers within COSATU, we remain inspired by the actions of the ’76 generation. The lessons learned from this generation will sharpen our resolve to fearlessly advance the interests of young people in general and young workers in particular within our Federation and the labour market.
Young people constitute a large section of the poor, the unemployed, the underemployed and those confronted by precarious work.
They are exposed to informal and insecure work arrangements with limited possibilities for career development. They are the ones who are trapped in part time and seasonal employment and the most exposed to unsafe work places with limited rights under international labour standards.
These are the realities that young people in the work place are faced with on a daily basis. In honour of the ’76 generation, we have a moral obligation to fight for the total transformation of the labour market such that it does not condemn young people and young workers to poverty. We will ensure that the sacrifices of the ’76 generation are not in vain.
We will continue to work to ensure that our federation, COSATU, intensifies its campaign for the total banning of labour brokers. We acknowledge that some progress has been made in this regard from a legislative framework point of view; however unscrupulous employers still find mechanisms to evade accountability and compliance.
On this very same note, we want to reaffirm the federation’s vehement rejection of the use of the Youth Wage subsidies to address the challenge of youth unemployment. The proponents of such policies argue that employing young workers is costly, labour market studies contradict this assertion and indicate that most young workers are in low-paying vulnerable jobs.
Secondly, there is no evidence whatsoever to prove that these incentives create employment; on the contrary, the incentives are mainly absorbed by labour brokers, who have accumulated huge amounts of profit since their introduction.
We will continue to advocate for the improvement of work conditions for those in vulnerable sectors, who are mainly young workers. Ruthless employers do not think twice about taking advantage of unfavourable socio-economic conditions of young people.
The food, beverages, hotel and retail industries are amongst the most exploitative with young workers bearing the brunt of the most precarious of working conditions.
One of our key campaigns as young workers within the federation will be to agitate for all affiliates within COSATU and structures of the mass democratic movement to completely disengage from using hotel and conference facilities that deny or limit the workers the right to unionise. All facilities that subject workers to long term temporary employment without any benefits, expose them to long work hours without adequate incentives, utilise labour brokers should be boycotted by our progressive organisations. As workers, we can ill-afford to continue feeding the beast that bites us.
We will also focus our attention on the Expanded Public and Community Works Programmes, which have been identified as key instruments for youth employment creation. Whilst this is a welcome intervention by our government, workers in these programmes receive very low wages and are exempted from conventional labour legislation.
We understand this to be a poverty alleviation intervention, one that can increase the employability of young people; however the poor quality of training and skills development means that this objective is not achievable. We call on the relevant departments to ensure that the quality of training is significantly improved and that adequate resources and time are dedicated towards this effort.
In honour of the ’76 generation, as young workers within COSATU and its affiliates we will make sure that the above mentioned campaigns are intensified at every level and that the labour market is radically transformed in favour of young people, who are the future owners and workers of this country. The 4th industrial revolution means that young people cannot just afford to prepare for a future as workers but also as the owners of the means of production. To achieve this, we shall continue to push for the fundamental restructuring of the South African economy in order to address the level of concentration of economic power into a select minority and monopolies.
Cde Xolani Fakude-Convenor: COSATU Young Workers Interim Steering Committee (071 355 1566)
Cde Yingwani Mahumani-Coordinator: COSATU Young Workers Interim Steering Committee (083 948 6589)