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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements


13 August 1997

From Monday, 18 August 1997, to Thursday, 21 August 1997 next week, millions of workers throughout the country will embark on unprecedented forms of strikes in major cities, towns and industrial areas in support of their demands for a progressive Basic Conditions of Employment Bill. There will be four days of rolling 24 hour strikes by all COSATU regions in support of the core demands put forward by COSATU during the negotiations with business and the government.

The strikes will begin on Monday, 18 August 1997, in the Eastern Cape region of COSATU, followed by the COSATU regions of KwaZulu Natal and Mpumalanga on Tuesday, 19 August 1997. On Wednesday, 20 August 1997, our regions in the Free State, Western and Northern Cape will join the struggle for an improved floor of rights for all workers particularly the most vulnerable and unorganised, while our Wits, Northern Transvaal and Western Transvaal regions will bring up the rear on Thursday 21 august 1997.

All strikes will be coupled with rallies and marches to the offices of Business South Africa or their affiliates. We are also encouraging our members to deliver memoranda to NAFCOC and its affiliates who have since indicated vehement opposition in particular to the demands for a 40 hour working week phased in over a period of not more than five years and the six months maternity leave of which at least four months should be paid. We had hoped that knowing the plight of workers and the yoke they carried under apartheid oppression and exploitation, they will have a better understanding of the plight of workers instead of churning out the same old tired arguments of big capital whose main motive is to preserve apartheid legislation drafted by them to the exclusion of the black population.

In a statement released on 30 July 1997, after a Special EXCO on the preparations for the 6th National Congress we indicated our resolve to engage in continued mass mobilisation of our members while remaining open to finding a negotiated resolution within the Alliance. The Alliance secretariat is taking steps to arrange for such a meeting. As always, we remain hopeful that, given political will on the side of the ANC, a settlement can be reached on all the core issues under dispute. Should proposals be forthcoming which we believe are capable of breaking the impasse, a Special EXCO will be convened to consider such proposals.

We have also received two letters from BSA purporting that they have changed their positions. We do not believe that they have moved an inch on any of the core issues after the impasse on 16 May 1997, and after the 24 hour general strike of 2 June 1997. It is for this reason that memorandu will be handed to them. If they do not change their views, further marches will be held on the days that both Business and Labour will be making their submissions to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour.

We call on all workers regardless of their trade union affiliation, or non membership of the union to join our action. They should not listen to those unions or federations whose members may already enjoy better working conditions because of our tragic history. We must send a powerful message to BSA and their surrogates that we mean business.

There are some naughty voices which are attempting to unravel the issues which have been agreed between COSATU and the government. We want to warn them that we will not accept any re-negotiation of issues already agreed to. The focus must only be on the core issues still under dispute.

For the record these are our demands:

  • Hours of work COSATU has maintained throughout the negotiations that while there are some improvements in working hours in so far as there is a reduction (phased in in certain sectors) in working hours for security workers, farm workers, domestic and mining workers, the bill makes no provision for a phased approach to a legislated 40 hour working week. Consequently, our demand remains that the bill should provide for a 40 hour working week phased in over a period of not more that 5 years. The approach in the negotiations by government and business on the 45 hours for mining workers, farm workers, domestic workers and security workers means that even where we thought that there was a gain for such workers it has vanished into thin air.
  • Child labour The COSATU position is that while we welcome the definition of a child in the bill, we remain of the view that the threshold for prohibition on child labour should be 16 years.
  • Variation COSATU is opposed to the variation model in the bill in so far as it seeks to allow for downward variation of certain rights, the wide discretionary powers given to the minister to vary rights downwards and the provision for individual agreements to change the provisions of the statute.
  • Paid maternity leave COSATU's position remains that the law must provide for six months maternity leave of which at least four months should be paid. [That women who go on maternity leave should enjoy job security as well as the fact that in the event that the UIF is used as a mechanism for payment, women who lose their jobs soon after returning from maternity leave should not be prejudiced.]

Taking into account the role that comrade Dorothy Mokgalo played in the negotiations as a whole and on maternity leave in particular, we urge all our members to ensure that all that she stood for on our behalf becomes a victory for the entire working class.

Please find attached a list of venues and dates for marches in all the regions.

Issued by Kim Jurgensen on behalf of COSATU

Action for August

Wits Region Library Gardens 09h00 21 August

Western Cape Grand Parade 09h00 20 August

Eastern Cape - 18 August 1. Umtata March : From Richardson Park to the Municipality Offices - Representative from Business will collect the Memorandum Rally : To be held at the Independence Stadium

2. Butterworth March : from Msobomvu Stadium to the Magistrate Office Rally : to be held at Ibika Grounds

3. Queenstown March : From Mlungisi Beer Hall to Hexagon Square

4. Port Elizabeth March : From Centenary Hall to Port Elizabelth Municipality Offices

5. King Williams' Town March : From Victoria Grounds to the Magistrate Offices Rally : To be held at the Victoria Grounds

6. East London March : From Traffic Circle in Oxford Street to the Offices of Boarder Chamber of Commerce Rally: To be held at the North End Stadium.

7. Alice March : From the Bus Rank to the Magistrate Offices

There will also be a mobilising rally at Dan Qeqe Stadium on the 17/08/97

Northern Transvaal - 21 August

O Pretoria O Rosslyn/Odi O Babelegi O Brits O Rusternburg O Ekangala O Thabazimbi O Ellisras O Groblesdal / Marble Hall O Warmbaths O Nylstroom O Pietersburg O Tzaneen O Giyani O Phalaborwa O Far North (Venda) O Louis Trichard

Northern Cape / Free State - 20 August 1997 Qwaqwa, Bethlehem, Bloemfontein, Welkom, Odendaalsrus, Virginia, Harrismith, Kimberley, De Aar, Kroonstad, Springbok, Victoria West, Viljoenskroon

KwaZulu-Natal - 19 August Curriesfontein Stadium (Durban), Isithebe, Empangeni, Pietermaritzburg, Newcastle

Mpumalanga - 19 August

1. Bushbuckridge: Pauline Stadium 2. Nelspruit : Alroe Park 3. Barberton : Emjundin Hall 4. Witbank : Ackerville Stadium 5. Middelburg : Community Hall 6. Secunda : Secunda Stadium 7. Ermelo : Mpumalanga Stadium 8. Piet Retief : 9. Standerton : Sakhile Hall 10. Burgersfort: Long Distance Taxi Rank 11.Delmas : Botleng Community Hall

Western Transvaal - 21 August Bloemhof (Community Hall), Carltonville (Bus rank), Klerksdorp, Lichtenburg (Bus Rank), Mafikeng (Magistrate Court)