Human Rights Day is a chance to celebrate our gains and to rededicate ourselves to continuing to improve workers’ lives

Human Rights Day is a chance to celebrate our gains and to rededicate ourselves to continuing to improve workers’ lives.  We have much to celebrate as a nation and as the trade union movement with the real progress we have made in advancing human rights since we became a democracy in 1994 under successive administrations led by the African National Congress.

We are governed by a progressive Constitution.  Our labour laws have advanced workers’ rights from the right to work in a safe environment, the repealing of previously racist legislation, setting minimum and maximum working hours, paid time off and overtime pay, maternity and parental and adoption leave, equal pay for equal work and a national minimum wage uplifting the wages of 6 million impoverished workers.

COSATU is proud of how we many managed to set in law many workers’ rights but more needs to be done to ensure the labour laws keep pace with evolutions in the labour market and the economy, including protecting atypical workers such as artists, musicians or actors from being denied their labour and human rights. 

More must be done to ensure all employers comply with their legal obligations, in particular sectors prone to the abuse of workers’ rights, e.g. agriculture, domestic, construction, cleaning and security.

Government, employers and society must play their role in the enforcement of our laws, including the right of workers to a safe workplace.  We cannot continue to normalise the death of a mine worker and a police officer every week in the course of their work.  Nor should we tolerate the abuse and harassment of women workers.

The state today spends more than 60% of its budget investing in working class communities from 27 million South Africans receiving social relief, to housing, healthcare, basic and tertiary education for working class families, to the rolling out of basic services to once deprived communities. 

Whilst celebrating these gains, we dare not be complacent when we continue to struggle with a 41% unemployment rate, endemic levels of crime and corruption, millions of women and girls and other vulnerable persons subjected to horrific levels of gender-based violence and sexual harassment, and landscape still scarred by the legacies of apartheid, inequality and poverty.

The private sector needs to play its part.  It cannot be acceptable that the CEOs of the mining, financial and retail giants earn hundreds of thousands daily, yet mine workers, bank tellers and cashiers will be lucky to earn that in a year.  The state will never have enough resources to grow the economy and reduce unemployment.  The private sector must show greater commitment to investing in and supporting local businesses and produced goods.

Parliament has passed many progressive laws, including the National Health Insurance Bill as well as the Employment Equity, Compensation of Occupational Injuries and Diseases as well as Gender-Based Violence Acts.  Government needs to ensure the relevant public service institutions are sufficiently resourced to implement these important laws.

We have much to be proud of as a nation and much that we should be embarrassed by.  We must all play our part in building that better life for all.

Issued by COSATU 

For further information please contact:
Matthew Parks
Acting National Spokesperson & Parliamentary Coordinator 
Cell: 082 785 0687