Photo Credit:Jackie Clausen.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) will embark on mass strike action on Wednesday as part of an ongoing dispute with the government.
The labour federation has asked its members to stay at home in support of the action due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cosatu is the largest trade federation in the country with an estimated membership of 1.8 million workers.
"We are convening this action under the Covid-19 lockdown alert level one regulations. This means that we have a responsibility not to undermine the fight against this deadly coronavirus that has killed so many of our compatriots," the labour federation said in a statement on Monday.
Cosatu said that it will also convene socially distanced pickets and motorcades across all the nine provinces, and in many identified towns and cities.
"This decentralisation of our activities will ensure that workers are involved and are all able to participate in all over the country but also that our activities do not spread this deadly virus,"it said.
While the strike action will primarily focus on the wage dispute with the government, Cosatu said that the federation also wants additional support to be given to frontline workers, and better governance.
Some of the other grievances and demands which have been raised by Cosatu include:
- Cosatu said it is impossible to fix the serious economic challenges without dealing with major problems such as transport in the country. The trade federation said transport is key to dismantling the system of apartheid separate development and eliminating the apartheid spatial challenges. The current inadequate public transport failure reflects the failures of the overall economic system, it said.
- State-owned enterprises – Urgent steps must be taken to fix and merge the country’s ailing state-owned enterprises and also to reverse the current export of South African capital. There are currently millions that are taken out of the country sometimes illegally, Cosatu said, adding that the Reserve Bank needs to explore measures that include capital controls and penalise financial speculation.
- Gender-based violence -The rising levels of gender-based violence in the country demand decisive action. Cosatu said government needs to push for a legislative reform and introduce mandatory minimum sentences for gender-based violence cases to act as a deterrence.
- The Covid-19 UIF TERS Fund has been looted by many employers who have failed to pay the money to the relevant workers, leaving many families struggling to put food on the table, it said.
"Acts of sustained civil disobedience are paramount at this time because sitting down and doing nothing will mean that we accept the death sentence that is handed to us by the political and business power structure that is mismanaging the economy and attacking workers’ rights," Cosatu said.
The government has come under fire from organised labour over its refusal to honour the 2018 multi-term three-year wage increase agreement this year, which unions say is the sign that the ANC-led government was attempting to undermine collective bargaining.