The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) expressed concern on Tuesday over the loss of formal sector jobs and the growing number of discouraged work-seekers.
Seemingly unaware of the irony of its position, Cosatu said, “These figures clearly confirm Cosatu’s view that we are in the throes of a national unemployment emergency.”
This is, of course, absolutely true. However, one of the major reasons for our unemployment problem is the power of trade unions. Cosatu and its affiliates demand higher-than-inflation wage increases, insist on restrictive hiring and firing rules, and generally attempt to hobble and calcify South Africa’s labour markets at every turn (for a longer discussion on these points, click here).
Continuing with its alternative universe narrative, Cosatu said, “All policies, from government, business and labour – and the SA Reserve Bank – must prioritise saving jobs and creating new jobs. This includes policy on economic development, tariffs, and interest rates, the expanded public works programme, community service delivery, rural development, etc. They must all now focus on measures to end the job loss bloodbath and create decent jobs.”
The irony here is that the expanded public works programme (EPWP) doesn’t provide so-called decent jobs (see full details here). It’s bizarre that Cosatu, on the one hand, wilfully hobbles the private sectors ability to create jobs, and on the other hand lauds government for creating work that meets none of the criteria of decent work.
If a business tried to create the type of jobs government’s creating with its EPWP Cosatu would be rioting on the streets. If the union were truly concerned with the plight of the unemployed, it would encourage businesses to hire, rather than to replace intractable and combative labour with machines.
Write to Felicity Duncan: firstname.lastname@example.org