COSATU condemns the DA’s attacks on the rights of workers

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) condemns the Democratic Alliance’s ill-informed attacks on the rights of workers in the strongest possible terms.  The DA’s pledge to scrap all the progressive gains workers have painstakingly achieved since 1994 is a brutal reminder that workers cannot trust the DA with their lives and rights.

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) came into effect in 2019 raising the wages of six million farm, domestic, cleaning, transport, hospitality and other highly impoverished workers.  The NMW has put money into workers’ pockets improving their living standards.  The NMW has proven to be a highly effective tool to reduce poverty and inequality and inject stimulus into the economy.  If the DA had bothered to read research by South Africa’s most reputable universities it know the NMW has not resulted in job losses. 

The DA’s hysterical opposition to the NMW defies the most rudimentary economic logic.  How will workers be productive if they cannot afford transport to work or the food to feed their bodies?  Who will buy the products our companies produce if workers cannot even afford the most basics in life?

Yet the very same DA Members of Parliament, who enjoy millionaire salaries, have been happy to receive increases as MPs, MPLs and Councillors, even in the Municipalities they govern.  There belt tightening would offend the “fiscal hawks” of the DA.

Workers have struggled during the darkest days of apartheid, whilst the DA’s predecessors sat meekly in the Whites’ only Parliament; to achieve the constitutional democracy we enjoy today and to protect the rights of workers to unionise, to collective bargaining to improve their working conditions and when aggrieved, to strike.  The DA’s disdain for these most basic of civilised rights is glaring in Tshwane Municipality where the DA has reneged on signed wage agreements and dismissed workers en masse.

Today workers enjoy the rights to paid maternity, parental and adoption leave, to paid time off and overtime pay. 

The Employment Equity Act requires employers to ensure that all workers are able to reach their full potential, irrespective of the colour of their skin or their gender.

COSATU campaigned for many years to achieve the Occupational Health and Safety Act guaranteeing workers the right to a safe workplace and to refuse dangerous work.

More recently 900 000 domestic workers were included under the Compensation of Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act to provide them protection from workplace injuries.

The Competition Act now requires the Competition Commission to consider the impact on jobs, local SMMEs and industries when approving large company mergers.

Parliament recently passed the Companies Amendment Bill requiring the CEOs of companies to disclose the obscene salaries they pay themselves and the peanuts they pay their most junior staff in their annual company reports as part of addressing the entrenched apartheid wage gap prevalent in the private sector.

These are the common sense progressive labour rights that so offend the DA and its dinner party circles in the wealthy suburbs of Constantia and Sandton.  The DA has no problem with a CEO of a bank earning R150 000 in a single day, yet a bank cashier would not earn that in two years.  The DA thinks its fine for the CEO of a mining company to earn R300 million in a year yet squabble with mineworkers wanting an extra R150 a month. 

The silence of the DA has been deafening when each week a mine worker dies at work, when employers allow their pit bulls to kill their gardeners, when domestic workers are sexually harassed at work.  The DA was nowhere to be seen when farmworkers were paid as little as R6 an hour not so long ago in De Doorns.

The solution to growing the economy and reducing unemployment is to tackle the actual obstacles to growth.  These are ensuring businesses reliable and affordable electricity; the mining, manufacturing and agricultural sectors are able to export their products, Metro Rail can transport commuters to work, local government is able to provide quality municipal services, crime and corruption are tackled, and yes that workers (also known as consumers) are paid a living wage and are partners in growing the economy.

Amazingly for all the DA’s false pretence at supporting the economy, it is even opposed to local procurement.  (Let’s not even mention Black Economic Empowerment). It has unashamedly championed removing any measures to protect local industries and emerging SMMEs in support of allowing a flood of cheap (and usually subsidised) imports from overseas.

For a party that pretends to be paying attention to international trends, the DA’s awareness of these very same labour standards and economic interventions that have been successfully implemented in the United States, Europe, Brazil and else is stupendous.   

Sadly, the DA’s disdain for workers and its dogged determination to oppose any measures to improve the rights and working conditions of workers is no surprise.  The DA has voted against every single labour law in Parliament since 1994 and even opposed the Constitution’s affirmation of the rights of workers.  Clearly no rights for workers meet the DA’s miserly threshold.

More recently the DA tabled a shameful Responsible Spending Bill at Parliament demanding the wages of nurses, teachers, police officers, cleaners and anyone working for the public sector be cut by 10% annually.

The DA knows it is selling poppycock and this is precisely why it will never publish these naked attempts to slash workers’ wages in the pamphlets it takes to working class communities on the Cape Flats.

Whilst we are disappointed that the DA’s economic model is to impoverish workers and treat them little better than slaves, we take comfort for the common sense of workers have shown as they have consistently rejected the DA’s absurd theatrics in every election since 1994.  COSATU and our Affiliates are crisscrossing workplaces and communities across the country to ensure workers come out in their millions on election day to reject the DA’s attacks on the rights of workers and to ensure an overwhelming majority for the only party that has been with workers in the trenches, the African National Congress.

Issued by COSATU

Matthew Parks

Acting National Spokesperson & Parliamentary Coordinator

Cell: 082 785 0687


Cape Town, South Africa