Major strike planned for South Africa next week

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) says that will embark on strike action around the country next week in response to  number of economic problems facing the country.

Saftu is the second largest of the country’s main trade union confederations, with 21 affiliated trade unions organising 800,000 workers.

The trade federation said that it has given notice to Nedlac to embark on a strike on 24 February 2021 – the same day as finance minister Tito Mboweni’s budget speech.

Most of the strike action will focus on a mass stay-away of workers, it said in a media briefing on Tuesday.

The trade federation said that it also plans to hold protest marches in major cities around the country on the same day, including at the home of the National Assembly in Cape Town.

“Even before Covid-19, we faced an economic pandemic of soaring unemployment, grinding poverty and extreme inequality,” it said.

“South African capitalism restored its once-high profit rate through ANC’s policies of austerity, privatisation, relaxed exchange controls, export-led growth at all costs and environmental destruction. The system was, meanwhile, incapable of meeting even the most basic needs of its people.”

The trade  federation has published dozens of grievances which primarily centre on a few key points:

  • The construction of a new economy – including a minimum wage of R12,500 a month for all workers, and a moratorium on all job losses;
  • The improvement of living conditions and the redistribution of land;
  • The cutting of greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Raising the social wage and providing public healthcare finance;
  • Free, decolonised and high-quality public education;
  • An end to corruption and crime;
  • A non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, socialist society.

This will be the first major national strike action undertaken by unions since the country relaxed level 3 Covid-19 lockdown rules.

However, analysts have warned that action will likely become more frequent in 2021 in response to government wage negotiations and upcoming elections.

In a January research note, BNP Paribas said that the government’s public sector wage deal is likely to remain a major point of contention in 2021, and could lead to further strike action.

“We see a good chance of widespread strike action as early as February, possibly tempered by Covid-19 restrictions and existing high levels of unemployment,” it said.

The deal could also impact the tripartite alliance between the ANC, Cosatu and the South African Communist Party.

BNP Paribas said that trade federation Cosatu has lost a large number of members in recent years, however, it said that the wage deal is likely to dominate the agenda.

Read: Rich South Africans could be hit with higher taxes next week

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Major strike planned for South Africa next week