/ 10 September 2014

Cosatu calls on viewers to boycott Generations

Cosatu wants viewers to take part in a week long "switch off" that would start on September 15.
Cosatu wants viewers to take part in a week long "switch off" that would start on September 15.

Cosatu wants viewers to take part in a week long “switch off” of local soap opera Generations, general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Tuesday.

“The campaign therefore has to be taken to a new level,” he told reporters in Johannesburg.

“What you cannot win through negotiation. You have to win on the streets.”

The switch-off would start on September 15 and includes repeats and the weekend omnibus. The campaign would include pickets and sending letters to the ministers of communication, labour, arts and culture, and trade and industry.

Sixteen generation  actors had their contracts terminated by MMSV Productions, producers of South Africa’s most popular soap opera, on August 18 for going on strike. Despite the show’s popularity, the main actors claim they are not being treated or remunerated fairly. Thirteen of these actors attended the media briefing on Tuesday.

Vavi said Cosatu and the Creative Workers Union of SA agreed to campaign for the actors’ demands.

These demands included a reduction of working hours to 10, social benefits, an end to inconsistencies in remuneration, for the SABC to pay royalties, and better working conditions.

“Media reports that Generations actors earned an average of R55 000 a month is nonsense,” Vavi said.

Generations made a profit of R500-million in one financial year, but failed to pay royalties calculated over 11 years… that is blatant robbery,” he said.

“Their fight is not just for their own jobs but for all the creative workers – actors, musicians and technicians – who are exploited on a daily basis by production companies and broadcasters, and earn wages which in no way reflect either their work’s monetary worth or, more importantly the pleasure it gives to thousands of people. It is a scandal that so many of our greatest artists die in poverty after a lifetime of entertaining the public.” 

SABC 1’s primetime soap opera attracts more than seven million viewers a night, making it one of the most watched television shows in the country.

The union said they are giving their full backing to the actors who have been out of work for a month and are determined to win their reinstatement. 

Cosatu says the campaign will take the following steps:

  • A week-long national “switch-off” by viewers, starting on September 15, focused on the adverts shown before, during and after showings of Generations – 8pm  to 8.30pm on SABC 1, repeats at 9.30am to 10am on SABC 3 and the Omnibus from 9am to 12pm on Saturday September 20; 
  • Solidarity press statements from unions and civil society backing the call to reinstate the actors;
  • Letters to be sent to the ministers of communications, labour, arts and culture and trade and industry;
  • Pressure on companies that advertise during Generations
  • Mass use of social media; Twitter, Facebook, and others.  
  • Engagement with international union federations focused on the many countries where Generations is shown;  
  • Petition to the SABC and;
  • Pickets.

Social media responses to Cosatu
Following Cosatu’s call for viewers to boycott the show, there were mixed reactions on social media.