The country’s largest unions, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), have given government 14 days to respond to their demands.
On Wednesday the labour unions embarked on a national protest against corruption, unemployment, and gender-based violence as well as the government not agreeing to this year’s public sector’s wage.
They say if the government fails to respond in time to the demands, more mass action is on the cards.
Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla says it was a successful day because droves of people hit the streets to join the protest.
“We are more than happy with the turnout. Members did not go to work in their numbers, and they were well behaved,” says Pamla.
“We got a lot of support from other labour formations and this gives us a solid foundation to plot our pushback going forward.”
Government ‘must honour’ wage increase agreement
The majority of those who took to the streets are public servants who expressed distress at having to cope with their existing salaries despite the increased cost of living.
In 2018 the state agreed to hike their wages by up to 5.4% this year, then made a u-turn on the agreement for the next four years.
This was at the centre of the strike because for the past two years the government has honoured the agreement.
“The South African government is honouring all its debt obligations and [its obligations] to its service providers, while the workers are at the bottom of the barrel. In the last five years, the Auditor-General said 10% of the budget goes to the government,” Pamla says.
Pamla says he feels that public servants are being targeted and sidelined, as the government has been continuously providing state-owned entities with financial bailouts, but fails to honour its increment agreement with the workers.
“Anything that is being currently presented [within government] does not make any sense for public servants,” he says. “When we went to lockdown it was this same public that was expected to hold the fort, and now we have forgotten them.”