Real jobs will end protests, says Cosatu

A transformed economy and decent, sustainable jobs are the solution to strikes and protests taking place throughout the country, Cosatu said on Friday.

"The long-term solution to strikes and protests lies not just in regulations and police action but through the transformation of our economy," said Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven, "and the creation of thousands of decent, sustainable jobs, decent wages and a far more equitable distribution of the country's wealth."

The trade union federation was referring to President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation address (Sona) on Thursday night.

Zuma criticised the loss of lives during strikes and protests taking place throughout the country and touched on regulations to prevent arbitrary strikes and retrenchments.

"We note, however, his off-the-cuff announcement of 'regulations to prevent arbitrary strikes and retrenchments' and urge him to clarify what he means and to reassure us that any such regulations will be fully discussed by role-players," said Craven.

Nothing new
Few of the proposals Zuma mentioned during his address at Parliament were new, which was concerning, he said.

Craven described the speech as a "repetition of many pledges already made in previous Sonas" and that "there was not enough focus on the way forward".

Craven said Cosatu had consistently backed the policies Zuma mentioned, including the Industrial Policy Action Plan, the Infrastructure Development Programme and parts of the New Growth Path.

"It is also worrying that the economics of the National Development Plan (NDP) are still being highlighted as a solution to our socioeconomic challenges," said Craven.

"The NDP's market-led solutions, if implemented, will roll back many of the areas of progress spoken about in Sona, which have been made through state-driven interventions."

Call for amendments
Cosatu was still calling for the reshaping of the economic elements of the NDP "as agreed at the 2013 Alliance Summit, in line with the resolution for radical economic transformation", said Craven.

He said the country's task now was to achieve the same advances on the economic front as it had on the political front.

"Ownership of the country's wealth and resources is still concentrated in the hands of a small, mainly white, male elite, who run big monopoly companies, many foreign-owned," he said.

"Inequality between that elite and the workers whose toil creates the wealth they enjoy is getting wider and wider."

Craven said poverty and inequality were at the heart of all the strikes and community protests taking place countrywide.

"Cosatu fully backs the president's plea for protests and strikes to be conducted lawfully and peacefully." – Sapa

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