/ 24 April 2018

Fedusa lashes out at Saftu, calling nationwide strike ‘self-serving’

George previously denied any wrongdoing to media after he was placed on special leave.
George previously denied any wrongdoing to media after he was placed on special leave.

The Federation of Unions of South Africa on Tuesday “totally rejected” calls by the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) to join it in a “self-serving nationwide strike” against the national minimum wage (NMW).

In an emotively worded statement, Fedusa said “it can never be legitimate to allow highly irresponsible grandstanding to undermine [the] lot of hard work” that went into setting a minimum floor for wages.

On Monday, Saftu called on all workers, regardless of their union affiliation, to support the upcoming nationwide strike.

According to Fedusa, the national minimum wage was determined by organised labour, represented by trade federations Fedusa, Cosatu and Nactu and the social partners of business and government at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) over a two-year period.

The negotiations on a minimum floor for wages were to lift millions of vulnerable South African workers out of abject poverty.

“At 26.7%, our country is currently suffering one of the highest unemployment rates in the world.

“This has been made worse by an extremely low economic growth and the sovereign credit rating to junk status or sub-investment grade, and a nationwide strike will cripple all efforts to turn that situation around,” Fedusa said.

Fedusa’s criticism of Saftu comes as thousands of workers get ready to take to the streets on Wednesday for a one-day strike to protest the recent increase in value-added tax, the minimum wage and “several labour bills making their way through Parliament”.

Saftu threatened, during a march to Parliament on April 12, that the union federation planned to make the country “ungovernable” if government continued with its plans of a R3 500 minimum wage.

Saftu demands what it calls “a living wage”.

“We will put the economy of this country down for them to listen. This economy is built on our own sweat and blood,” the federation’s Western Cape deputy chairperson, Nyaniso Siyana, said during the march to Parliament.

Saftu gave government an ultimatum to come back with a “positive response” before April 25, otherwise it would return to Parliament to take further action.

Saftu is South Africa’s second largest union federation after Cosatu, representing 30 unions, including the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa. It was launched in April 2017 and, according to Saftu, now represents more than 800 000 workers.

Meanwhile, Fedusa said on Tuesday that it remained fully cognisant that the proposed R20 per hour – translating to R3 500 a month – was not a living wage, “but it is a minimum wage recommended for 47% of workers currently earning less than R20 per hour.”

“This alone means that half the workers will directly benefit from the national minimum wage that has further been recommended to be subjected to an annual review, to ensure that its value is not eroded over time and that it addresses inequality.”

The national minimum wage would have kicked in on May 1 2018, but the implementation date has been pushed back. — Fin 24