Metalworkers’ union, Numsa, in Johannesburg has joined a Saftu nationwide stay-away aimed at highlighting the plight of workers as companies continue to cut jobs in a sluggish economy that’s been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yesterday, Statistics South Africa revealed that at least 11 million South Africans are out of work, with the unemployment rate sitting at 32.5%.
Workers are demanding various things, including salary hikes and improved worker safety.
The pickets, under the Saftu umbrella, in the city have taken place at the Johannesburg Central Police Station and the Baragwanath Academic Hospital in Soweto.
The strike coincides with the Finance Minister’s budget speech that’s being table on Wednesday afternoon.
Saftu says it doesn’t have high hopes for the budget.
“We know that he is going to present an austerity budget, a budget that is pro-rich and this is informed by his fear for the raiding agencies, his love for business people, banks, his hatred for state own entities. So there is going to be nothing really for the working class and the poor people in this country,” says Saftu President, Mac Chavalala.
He adds: “We think that he is also going to be following in the presidents footsteps in his state of the nation address, where the president basically presented nothing expect to tell us that he is going to address the triple prices through BEE and he wanted us to clap hands for that and for the fact that the country is now producing 1 million chickens per week as if workers and the poor people want chickens,” Chavalala.
Chavalala says workers don’t want chickens, but want jobs. “We are not told how many jobs were created as a result of that, we suspect that some of these companies were created just for tendering purposes and nothing else. So we can’t celebrate the building of smart cities as if those things are actually creating jobs for our economy. Hence we are saying that we don’t expect anything coming from Tito Mboweni,”adds Chavalala.
Education researcher, teacher and policy analyst, Sara Black, is also not optimistic that education will be prioritised in Mboweni’s speech.
“I don’t hold a lot optimism of education being prioritised to the degree that it needs to be, we know that Mr Mboweni has been a long term advocate for an austerity style of budgeting, very reluctant to consider redirecting funds from parastatals towards basic institutions such as education or even health.
We know for a long time that education budget is inadequate to the task even though we have been told that it is a large percentage of the budget pie. That narrative fails to account for that fact the pie is very small for the numerable mouths that it’s supposed to feed,” concludes Black.
Rights group, Equal Education, is meanwhile protesting outside Parliament in Cape Town, demanding that the Minister prioritises education in his budget speech.
The organisation wants Minister Mboweni to reverse cuts in the Basic Education budget.