Workers march to premier’s office demanding better working conditions

The working class are the main voters and we are giving government a warning, says COSATU chairperson

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Photo of workers protesting
Workers called for the signing of the national minimum wage bill in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday. Photo: Nompendulo Ngubane

About 200 members of COSATU and other allied workers unions marched to the office of the premier in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday demanding changes to labour policy.

The workers called for president Cyril Ramaphosa to sign the national minimum wage bill into law on Friday. Other demands included banning of labour brokers and that government stop outsourcing state services.

Alliances such as the South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) were present during the march.

Leading the march was newly elected COSATU president Zingiswa Losi. “We are demanding that the president sign the national minimum wage to all the workers,” said Losi.

She said the “total ban of labour brokers” has always been a goal for COSATU. “Labour brokers exploit the workers to the core.”

“The other concern we have come to raise is the issue of retrenchments … When the president convenes a job summit in this country … Business goes there and pledges the jobs that they will be creating in different sectors, [but] at the same time they talk about the massive job retrenchments that will be happening. That is a total contradiction,” said Losi.

Among the marchers was Zandile Khuzwayo from Dambuza. She said she has been retrenched from the company she was working for. “I have a family that I was feeding and am the only breadwinner at home. The government is not paying attention to what the workers are going through.”

“We are seeing the selfish side of our government in the province as a whole. They are expecting us to vote next year. How are we going to vote on empty stomachs? We are here today to tell them that we are tired. Enough is enough,” said Khuzwayo.

The issue of gender-based violence in the workplace was also addressed.

Losi said it has come to their attention that women are sometimes forced to exchange sex to qualify for certain positions. “This is related to power. We are saying that has to stop,” said Losi. “We are calling upon all of us to act against gender-based violence in the workplace.”

COSATU provincial chairperson Skhumbuzo Mdlalose said the war between employers and employees is getting worse every day.

“We are sending a message to the parliamentarians that they should not provoke the working class. Workers are the main voters and we are giving them a warning,” said Mdlalose. “We are not different from those in Parliament who want their salaries increased by 100%. They are insulting workers and giving them 5%.”

Losi said the workers are giving the authorities seven days to respond to their demands.

The memorandum was accepted by acting director general from the office of the premier, S’bu Ngubane. “We are aware that workers are frustrated,” he said while addressing the marchers. “Our duty is to ensure that the memorandum is channelled to the right people. Once this has been done, we will revert.”

Mbongeni Shabalala from the Department of Labour told the workers he will also hand over the memorandum to the relevant authorities at the department.

TOPICS:  Labour Labour unions

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