The government will not be able to emulate the growth performance of Bric (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries until it stands up to the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille said on Friday.
Zille wrote in her weekly newsletter that the Cosatu’s inflexible approach to labour legislation was undermining the chances of young South Africans finding jobs.
“The truth is that whatever the ANC government pledges, it will not be able to emulate the Bric countries unless it calls Cosatu’s bluff,” Zille said.
“It is the disproportionate influence of Cosatu that, more than anything else, is undermining the chances of young South Africans to get jobs.
“Liberating young South Africans from this stranglehold is a priority if we are to become a model for our African brothers and sisters to follow.”
Zille referred to factory workers who lost their jobs in Newcastle after factories in the area were forced to close because they could no longer pay the statutory minimum wage.
The closures sparked protests from business owners and workers.
“The employers were angry because they were going out of business,” Zille said.
“The workers were angry because they would rather earn less than the minimum wage than live in absolute poverty without any wage whatsoever.
“Its intransigence over wage flexibility demonstrates that for all its railing against the predatory elite, Cosatu is certainly not pro-poor.”
Zille said the irony of workers and employees uniting against unnecessary job losses “must have been lost on Cosatu, which continues to support inflexible labour legislation regardless”.
“Those factory workers in Newcastle who have lost their jobs will now join the ranks of the growing army of unemployed South Africans, two-thirds of whom are young black people under the age of 35 who have never had a job and have been rendered all but unemployable as a result.
“Cosatu is seemingly oblivious to this great tragedy.”
Zille said Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan had to be applauded for his commitment to create five million new jobs by 2020, but that his efforts to introduce a wage subsidy were being blocked by Cosatu.
“This pledge is backed up by some solid and innovative ideas, such as the R6-billion set aside for youth employment projects proposed by private firms,” she said.
“Gordhan has also said that government is in the process of formulating a wage subsidy scheme for unemployed youth, a promise made by President Jacob Zuma in his first state of the nation address, and then put on the back-burner after opposition from Cosatu.” — Sapa