/ 26 April 2010

‘Inequality mocks our struggle to build a free society’

South Africa still has a lot to achieve before all South Africans are really free, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said on Monday.

“We cannot ignore the 58% of South Africans who live in poverty, who cannot really benefit from political freedom as they face a daily struggle to survive,” spokesperson Patrick Craven said in a statement.

He said massive inequality had made South Africa the most unequal society in the world.

“Such inequality mocks our struggle to build a free, fair and equitable society. Neither can we celebrate freedom when our society is scarred by such high levels of crime and corruption.”

He said there was a continued restructuring of the working class into a two-tier labour market.

“We suffer from the gross exploitation of workers as capitalists seek new ways to enrich themselves at the expense of the working class and dodge around the labour laws.”

He explained that the first layer of workers enjoyed most of the rights contained in the constitution.

“They are covered by collective bargaining and enjoy better work security and better pay.”

The second layer was of super-exploited workers without any rights or freedoms.

“For them, joining a union is a personal risk and upward job mobility is an illusion. It is a large and growing army of workers employed in low-paid, temporary, casualised jobs or employed through the enslaving labour-broking system.”

Poverty and under-development
He said the highest levels of poverty and under-development were still concentrated in the former Bantustans.

“The black working class, despite government provision of thousands of new houses, are still located far away from workplaces, forcing workers to spend a lot of the little wages they receive on ever-rising transport costs.”

Workers bore the brunt of the recent capitalist crisis, caused by the greed of capital.

In the first nine months of 2009, the country lost 959 000 jobs, and workers lost R17-billion, worsening poverty and inequality.

This was the underlying reason for all the service-delivery protests in the country’s poorest communities.

Craven said the only way for workers, their families and communities to win real and total freedom was for them to get organised in strong, fighting trade unions.

“Cosatu urges every worker, and all South Africans, to celebrate Freedom Day actively, by attending the many events around the country,” he said. — Sapa