Cosatu strike 'a powerful statement'

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) -led strike on Thursday was a powerful statement by workers, the South African Communist Party (SACP) said on Sunday.

Briefing the media on the outcome of a SACP central committee meeting over the weekend, party secretary general Blade Nzimande said the strike to highlight the plight of the working class and poor was very well supported.

“Workers will not stand passively by while the rich become richer and workers remain stranded, as if they were second class citizens in another world of poverty and underdevelopment,” Nzimande said.

“While there has been sustained economic growth for over a decade, while prices for many of our primary commodity exports are soaring on global markets, and while the bosses have been reaping unprecedented profits—millions of workers are barely experiencing any benefits, if at all, from this post-apartheid dividend.

“The wage gap has widened, and the share of GDP accruing to capital has been increasing while that to workers has diminished.

“Township and rural village communities, particularly women in these communities, bear the brunt of an inadequate response to the HIV/Aids pandemic.

“While domestic car sales have soared, it is workers and the poor who find themselves in the crossfire of taxi wars, or stranded on stations by an under-capitalised and unreliable Metrorail system, or bundled into over-crowded and unsafe buses and minibuses,” Nzimande complained.

His deputy, Jeremy Cronin, added that the rich were benefiting disproportionately and disgracefully.

“This is what the general strike said. Millions of people are in distress.”

For this reason, the central committee welcomed the government-led joint initiative on priority skills acquisition (Jipsa), a project undertaken in the broader context of the Accelerated Shared Growth Initiative of SA (Asgisa).

“We welcomed the Jipsa initiative, which seeks to correct, not just the skills imbalance left from the apartheid era, but also the devastating impact in the recent past of austerity policies that have grossly neglected training and professional morale in key public sector professions like teaching and nursing.

“The skills development responsibilities of our parastatals have also been neglected in the erstwhile enthusiasm for right-sizing and privatisation.

“In the past, these parastatals trained tens of thousands of artisans every year. Today the average age of artisans in South Africa is 54.

“In engaging with the main Jipsa proposals, the [central committee] called for greater emphasis on the development of skills to sustain effective land agrarian reform and cooperative programmes,” Nzimande said. - Sapa