The Congress of South African Trade Unions reiterates its call for workers all across the country to stay at home in support the COSATU National Socio-economic Strike on Wednesday, 07 October 2020. This is a Section 77 protected National strike that forms part of our International Day of Decent Work.
The Federation is encouraging workers to exercise their right to challenge and contest this rigged economic system and we will be targeting government, private sector employers and law enforcement agencies. A strike remains a primary tool of exercising power that workers have at their disposal. We need to take a stand and push back against this flagrant theft of taxpayer funds and the disgraceful abandonment of the working class by policymakers and decisionmakers. The only way to undo this corrupt system is through disruption and non-cooperation and obstruction.
Acts of sustained civil disobedience are paramount at this time because sitting down and doing nothing will mean that we accept the death sentence that is handed to us by the political and business power structure that is mismanaging the economy and attacking workers’ rights. We need to refuse to be fooled by empty commitments and public declarations but demand action and effectiveness from our leaders.
The workers need to unite in defending jobs, fighting corruption, as well as the shortcomings of our law enforcement agencies in fighting corruption and gender-based violence. We need to fearlessly express our determination to protect the integrity of collective bargaining, and to resist all attempts by employers to undermine it.
We are making a louder call for decisive state intervention in strategic sectors of the economy, the use of a variety of macroeconomic and other levers at the states disposal to deliberately drive industrialisation, sustainable development, decent employment creation, and break historical patterns of colonial exploitation and dependence.
Workers demand a radical economic shift that requires that the President Cyril Ramaphosa administration to realign the work of its National Treasury and the Reserve Bank to that of a government vision. The 51% decline and the loss of 2,2 million jobs is an indictment on the performance of the cabinet.
Urgent steps must be taken to fix and merge our ailing state-owned enterprises and also to reverse the current export of South African capital. There are currently millions that are taken out of the country sometimes illegally. We need the Reserve Bank to explore measures that include capital controls and penalise financial speculation.
Despite labour’s massive contribution to help keep the country afloat with a UIF TERS Fund and also COSATU presenting a solid plan to fix a crisis-ridden ESKOM, workers are still being targeted, exploited, and victimised with little consequences.
COSATU did warn that Treasury’s austerity strategy was bound to depress demand and thus cause a deep recession. The National Treasury’s dogmatic and narrow ideological fixation with the public service wage bill has had devastating consequences for the economy already as the federation predicted earlier this year. The proposed draconian public service cuts in the public service wage bill have plunged this economy, that gets 60% of its revenue from consumption expenditure, into an economic meltdown. This has had worse consequences for the township economy and poverty in rural areas.
We reiterate our rejection of the Treasury’s austerity strategy and call for the macroeconomic framework geared to address the basic needs of our people, transform the economy, strengthen the public service, and renew efforts to build a capable developmental state.
The failure of the public transport system during the extreme COVID-19 lockdown has been a reminder that very little will be achieved without the majority of people having access to a reliable, affordable, and integrated public transport system.
It is impossible to fix the serious economic challenges without dealing with the major problems such as transport in the country which is the lifeblood of the economy. Transport is key if we are to dismantle the system of apartheid separate development and eliminating the apartheid spatial challenges. The current inadequate public transport failure reflects the failures of our overall economic system.
The rising levels of gender-based violence in the country demand decisive action. We need to push for a legislative reform and introduce mandatory minimum sentences for gender-based violence cases to act as a deterrence.
The intent by government to ratify Convention 190 that was adopted by the International Labour Organisation is a step in the right. We need a solid campaign that is focusing on eliminating violence and harassment against women. We demand that decision makers move with speed to tackle this scourge.
These struggles mean that we cannot afford to fight meaningless battles against one another when the ship is sinking. This means that we need unite the working class, extend our organisations to areas where workers are currently unorganised; and to act decisively to combat practices, or conditions, which lead to worker disunity or fragmentation. It is only through unity that workers will have an effective engine to drive the changes we want to see at the workplace, in the economy, and at a political level.
Employers in government and in the private sector must not be allowed to divide us or reverse the workers` victories. The cynical alliance between government and the private sector that has seen the emergence of a corporate welfare state and the intensification of the super-exploitation of the workers should be collectively fought by both unionised and non-unionised workers.
It is obvious now that we cannot rely on government to discipline capital, but we need to unite and do it ourselves. The neoliberal economic framework that has given us this system of unfettered capitalism has broken down; its ideological foundation is losing its hold on the imagination of large numbers of people who are not benefiting from this system.
This rigged economic system has ensured that wealth is concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite. This system is only kept on life support by the failure of the working class to unite, outline and implement an alternative system that responds rationally to the needs of the people.
Business and their opportunist political bedfellows know that the system is collapsing and that they no longer have legitimacy, but they are not going to give up easily. They are going to continue to try their old strategy of pushing for the workers to pay the price for this economic crisis. The struggle to dismantle this rigged economic system will require unity, sustained protests and will be grounded in class warfare. If we lose this fight, our democracy and our country will collapse.
We are convening this action under the COVID-19 lockdown alert level one regulations. This means that we have a responsibility not to undermine the fight against this deadly coronavirus that has killed so many of our compatriots.
We shall be convening socially distanced pickets and motorcades across all the nine provinces and in many identified towns and cities (see the attached programme). This decentralisation of our activities will ensure that workers are involved and are all able to participate in all over the country but also that our activities do not spread this deadly virus.
This National Strike is also taking place 35 years since this giant federation of workers was formed. We are reminded of the fact that workers under the banner of Cosatu were an essential force in the movement that confronted an oppressive apartheid regime.
It is the workers who built this country and its economy, and we continue to keep the wheels of this economy turning. This is the time for workers to remember that they are their own liberators, the is no saviour for us and it upon us to work together to fix this mess for the better. We must organise, mobilise and be ready to fight relentlessly to shape a future that is free of exploitation, corruption, unemployment, poverty, and inequality.
Issued by COSATU
Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794