‘We’ll Shut Down Economy’
Above Photo: Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi among the crowd at the Lilian Ngoyi Sports Centre
Image: Brian Witbooi
Vavi declares war on minimum wage plan at PE May Day rally
South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has threatened to shut down the economy if the proposed national minimum wage is implemented.
Vavi was speaking at a May Day rally at the Lilian Ngoyi Sports Centre in Kwazakhele, Port Elizabeth. “We need a total shutdown of this economy for a minimum of two days. We want to occupy every city,” he said.
“We won’t move until they withdraw this attack on workers.”
Saftu is demanding a living wage of at least R12 500 a month, while the proposed minimum wage is R3 500 a month, or R20 an hour.
“If the economy is going through hell, let the economy go through hell for everyone,” Vavi said.
Hundreds of people attended the rally, and constantly cheered for Vavi.
He cautioned people against accepting the new wage policy, saying it would cause more oppression.
“It can’t be okay that workers are earning R20 an hour and [company owners] earn R8 600 an hour.”
Saftu believes the rate would keep the poor locked in poverty wages and only suit employers who want to pay low wages.
On the other hand‚ Cosatu accepted the minimum wage, saying it would help protect all workers and should not be confused with a living wage.
Saftu‚ which was formed by breakaway unions from Cosatu‚ believes the relationship between Cosatu and the ANC has compromised workers.
But Vavi said for the sake of workers, Saftu would unite with Cosatu under certain conditions.
“Our conditions are get out of bed with the employers, get out that bed with those pretend communists, get out of bed with the alliance and come join Saftu in a fight for a living wage.
“But we will never unite with people that deliver our workers on a silver platter for further exploitation to the multibillionaires that have ascended to the position of the president of the ANC.”
Vavi also complained about the length of the national bus strike, urging people to mobilise at bus depots to get the bus company owners to agree to the workers’ demands.
“On Thursday here in Nelson Mandela and everywhere else in the country let’s go to those bus depots.That’s the only way we are going to end that strike,” he said.
Drivers from at least 10 companies, including Algoa Bus Company, downed tools on April 18, demanding a 12% pay hike.
The unions then dropped their demands to a 9.5% increase in the first year and 9% in the second.
But the companies offered 8% in the first year and 8.5% in the second year.
Also speaking at the Kwazakhele event, Numsa’s Andile Bloko called on workers to confront Algoa Bus Company chief executive Sicelo Duze and insist he increases the wages of the bus drivers.
“If he fails to do this we will adopt the EFF’s programme of entering shops,” he said.