/ 13 February 2019

Cosatu takes to the streets over Eskom, job losses

Cosatu fought to address the wage gap 20 years ago
Cosatu fought to address the wage gap 20 years ago, when the Employment Equity Bill was being drawn up, but since then it has remained silent on the issue. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

The country’s largest trade union federation Cosatu will embark on a one-day nationwide strike in the coming days, against job losses and Eskom restructuring.

Here is your guide to the nationwide strike.


The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) will embark on the one-day strike.

All employees, even if they are not unionised are allowed to join the industrial action as it is protected under the Section 77 notice granted by the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac). It is a protected strike based on socio-economic issues under the “no-work, no pay” principle.

Essential services such as certain categories of medical personnel, police officers and Eskom workers are barred from striking. Teachers and some nurses are allowed to join the industrial action.

It is unclear how many people will participate in the protests or the strike.

The majority of Cosatu’s 1.5-million members are in the public service and have largely been shielded from job cuts, however, there are reports of plans to cut the public sector wage bill (currently 35% of consolidated government spending).

Marches in eight provinces will take place on February 13. The protected protest action in the Western Cape will be on February 19 to coincide with the day before the budget speech, parliament.

Cosatu’s main marches are typically Johannesburg. Workers are expected to gather at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown from 9am and march to the Gauteng legislature and Chamber of Mines in the CBD to hand over memoranda of demands. Expect route diversions and gridlocked traffic until the march is over.

In KwaZulu-Natal, members will gather at King Dinuzulu Park (Botha Park) in Durban and march to the premier’s office and the department of labour in Central Durban.

There will also be protests in East London, Port Elizabeth, Mahikeng, Welkom, Witbank, Polokwane and Kimberley.

In Cape Town on February 19, memoranda of demands will be handed over to Parliament, the City of Cape Town and the provincial government offices.

Cosatu wants a moratorium on retrenchments in the private sector and public sector, a promise the jobs summit in October 2018 was unable to achieve due to difficult economic conditions and firms needing to restructure.

The mining sector has been particularly hard hit with thousands of jobs cut in 2018 and more planned in the years ahead.

Eskom will also be central to the march as there is concern that splitting the power utility into three separate entities and possibly bringing in private equity partners, announced in the State of the Nation Address, could lead to job losses.

The federation will also reiterate calls to cut the value added tax rate, back to 14% and instead establish a wealth tax and hike the corporate tax rate.

Will Cosatu drop support for ANC at the polls?
Cosatu in Gauteng warned on Monday that the federation’s decision to support the ANC in the May 8 national elections could be reviewed over the unbundling of Eskom and the failure to consult labour.

However, Cosatu’s national spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said this would be a difficult decision to take before the elections as it would require a special national congress to backtrack on the resolution taken by the federation’s 13th congress in September 2018 to support the ANC in the 2019 polls.

But he said “enthusiasm for ANC politics has waned on the ground” and “nothing can be taken for granted” by the party.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) threatened in April 2018 to end its support for the ANC in April 2018, over renewable energy, claiming this will lead to job losses in the coal sector. — Fin24