The labour union federation is the only one 'flabbergasted' at the IMF saying inflexible labour laws in South Africa are hampering economic growth.
Labour union federation Cosatu claimed to be "flabbergasted" by the International Monetary Fund's (IMF's) report on South Africa, which notes "inflexible" labour legislation as one of the problems South Africa has to deal with if it is to grow economically and thereby deal with poverty and unemployment. Cosatu should not be so easily flabbergasted: this is the kind of thing everyone (except Cosatu) has been saying for a while.
Nobody's saying South Africa should have a free-for-all of a labour market, but labour needs to take cognisance of the problems cited by business – problems that led to the recent decision by BMW, for one, to reconsider its operations here. Simply to lambast such concerns as "blackmail" and shrug them off, as unionists did this week, is inadequate.
Besides – as we report in Mail & Guardian Business – wages were only one aspect of the report's take on South Africa's situation. It also spoke about competitiveness, productivity, and the difficulties faced by small and medium-sized start-ups, noting that new employment is most likely to come from such enterprises. It broadly endorsed the state's National Development Plan (NDP), which is something we desperately need to get on with – it may have flaws, but it's the best plan we've had so far, and it's more convincing than Cosatu's repeated call for "wage-led growth" and "strategic" nationalisation.
Cosatu is also very knee-jerk in its response to the IMF, refighting ancient battles over "structural adjustment" and the like. Can it really not see a difference between that body, which it calls "rabidly capitalist", and the neo-Keynesian NDP? Or between "neoliberalism" and South Africa's large welfare state? Is it really taking "actually existing" economic conditions into account, or is its analysis purely self-interested?