PSI supports strike action on Global Day for Decent Work in South Africa

On 7 October, Global Day for Decent Work, South African workers are coming together demanding urgent action from the authorities to address issues such as corruption, gender-based violence and the protection of collective bargaining. PSI fully supports this strike action planned by COSATU, with the support of FEDUSA, NACTU and SAFTU.

PSI statement

PSI fully supports the joint strike action that has been planned by COSATU, with the support of FEDUSA, NACTU and SAFTU. Firstly, we would like to commend the leadership of the federations for agreeing to come together in order to make a bold statement on worker power. The significance of this action is to demonstrate that what unites us as workers is more than what divides us. As a class, our interests are the same, and what threatens us is the same. As working-class formations, the principle of collective power is a doctrine on which our continued existence depends.

Secondly, we would like to commend the leadership for clearly identifying the issues that are a real threat to the workers. First there is the issue of Corruption. The devastating effects of corruption are varied and pervasive. The most obvious one is that resources meant for the provision of public services are diverted and converted to private and individual use. Resources that could fund the purchase of life saving drugs and equipment end up buying luxury cars and apartments for a few individuals. The aggregate effects on the country’s GDP is staggering. After the state is prejudiced of millions of Rands, it is left with a budget deficit to fund its obligations. This then leads to borrowing, which leads to huge debts into which many African states have been trapped.

PSI is currently working with other organisations to strengthen the African movement for Debt Cancellation. It is out of our awareness that debt cripples the ability of states to fund public services as a huge part of revenues collected have to be directed towards debt servicing.

However, our message is compromised if so many resources are lost to corruption. Debtor countries and organisations will always point to the cases of corruption as the cause for the Government’s budget constraints instead of the cost of debt servicing.

Corruption in its worst form can lead to a failed state. When the institutions of state fall under the control of individuals or private organisations, they can no longer serve the public purpose for which they are set up, leading to the failing to perform its functions. We would like to urge the authorities and the law enforcement agencies to effectively play their role.

PSI is also running workshops to educate workers and the public on whistle-blower protection.

South Africa is too important an African and Global political and economic player to become a failed state. The South African workers are highly conscious and militant enough not to allow corrupt politicians to drag the country towards the stereotype of another failed African state.

While the Corona Virus pandemic was a huge external shock to the economy, most indicators were already painting a dire picture of the socio-economic situation for the country even before the outbreak of COVID-19; the GDP growth rate was a measly 0.8 and 0.20 in 2018 and 2019 respectively against rising unemployment and increasing poverty. The structural problems of inequality are yet to be fully addressed 25 years after the advent of democracy. With the onset of COVID-19 the economy is expected to shrink considerably with millions already have fallen into the clutches of poverty. In fact, the pandemic has shown the need to relook at the economic model under which the South African economy has been run. Serious thought needs to go into the post-COVID-19 planning processes to see whether the same economic model should inform the recovery process.

It is frustrating then that the government is looking at austerity as a response to crisis. National Treasury intends to increase taxation and has made no money available to government departments in the next three years. Instead of ensuring that workers and people who have lost their livelihoods during this pandemic have safety nets, conversely, National Treasury is adopting policies that will reduce social protections.

The attack on collective bargaining agreements is another issue raised by the trade union federations. Collective bargaining agreements are usually arrived at after painstaking efforts, usually under constant pressure from mandate giving constituencies. There is no need to mention the compromises that are made, on the workers’ expectations and the difficult task of usually having to explain and persuade the workers to make those compromises. Once signed, these agreements should therefore be sacrosanct. For one side to come back and simply say they will no longer be complying with an agreement they are party to, undermines the whole process of collective bargaining, a mechanism that is at the core of maintaining good industrial relations. Workers are offended and feel the employer is taking them for a ride when they backtrack on such an agreement. Workers feel hard done by when they are made to sacrifice for the corruption of the fat cat politicians.

Gender Based Violence is a stain on our collective conscience. Horrifying, disgusting and disgraceful acts have been perpetrated in our society. We commend the President for hosting the National Gender Summit in 2018 from which important resolutions on dealing with this scourge came out. We also commend the steps that have been taken towards stiffening the sentences for perpetrators of Gender Based Violence. However, despite all these initiatives, the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, was a sombre reflection of how far the fight for women’s rights has to go as it coincided with the depressing statistics of increased cases of GBV during the COVID-19 induced lockdowns. The issue of gender equality and the fight against GBV should be a matter for serious reflection from a personal, organisational and national levels. Furthermore, to addressing GBV requires us to ensure economic independence of women, and to have strong accessible and functioning public services.

We therefore believe that the collective strike by all South African workers is an unequivocal statement that they demand solid action from the authorities that will address these issues. We fully support this action by South African workers because we are fully convinced that these actions will inspire and awaken other workers across the world. Long live the struggling workers of South Africa, Long Live! Amandla!