Mass protected strike set for Wednesday

Twice this month, all workers, in any profession, in any sector, public or private, can go on strike. The first mass, cross-sector strike was given the go ahead recently, and will take place on Wednesday.  

Cosatu has obtained permission from the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) to hold a nationwide strike on 7 October in terms of Section 77 of the Labour Relations Act to protest job losses.

This section makes provision for a strike which “promotes or defends socio-economic interests of workers|”, and only excludes workers in essential or maintenance services.

Cosatu spokesperson, Sizwe Pamla, told the Mail & Guardian that the socio-economic issue at stake was nationwide job losses. October 7 is also International Day for Decent Work.

Cosatu’s application means that all workers across the country will be protected if they strike on Wednesday, Pamla added. 

He said workers should make contact with their local union branches to join the marches. “There must be a march in each town,” Pamla said.

A Section 77 notice also allowed the Unite Against Corruption (UAC) coalition to hold marches around the country on September 30. The notice was obtained by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), part of the coalition.

Despite Numsa insisting it had applied to Nedlac for permission on time, it was only granted permission to march two weeks later, so that strike was unprotected.

Nedlac says Cosatu’s strike on Wednesday will be protected. Meanwhile, Nedlac also announced that Numsa has been granted permission to hold its Section 77 strike on October 14. It is unclear whether this will go ahead, given that Numsa and the UAC held its marches on September 30.

Cosatu tweeted the details of marches in all nine provinces. More details will be announced at a media briefing on Monday, Pamla said.

“It is protected across the board. Nedlac has the power to allow all sectors of the economy to strike by that certificate that it issues,” Pamla stressed.

He said Cosatu wanted civil society organisations to participate in the strike, too.

“For us, it is an issue triggered by massive retrenchments all across the economy, particularly in metals and mining.

“But as much as we are highlighting those specific issues, we will also be factoring in issues of communities that have been protesting for better service delivery.”

And much like the UAC marches, Cosatu’s strike is directed at government and the private sector.

He said government had not done enough to protect jobs.

“But we also want to say to business, ‘you’ve had it good for so long, but you have taken money outside of the country. We want you to come up with ways to stop job losses.'”

Task teams have been formed in the mining and manufacturing sectors in an effort to stave off mass job losses. In the manufacturing sector, this was driven by Numsa and other trade unions. Government initiated the task team in the mining sector.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has organised international union activity on October 7, since 2008. The theme this year is about climate justice. Traditionally, the day is to demand decent work.

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Sarah Evans
Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans interned at the Diamond Fields Advertiser in Kimberley for three years before completing an internship at the Mail & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane). She went on to work as a Mail & Guardian news reporter with areas of interest including crime, law, governance and the nexus between business and politics. 

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