TRADE union federation Cosatu is looking to use Friday’s mass action to prove it still wields muscle in the labour market.
The federation’s affiliates support the day-long, protected action against the rising cost of living and sluggish economic growth, which has led to the shedding of jobs.
The industrial action takes place as Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, accompanied by a high-level business, government and labour delegation, is in New York to drum up investment in SA.
Cosatu’s membership base declined massively after it expelled its largest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), at the end of 2014 and the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) left the federation in August in favour of a new project led by former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.
Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini on Thursday said the federation had proven itself many times. It was expecting about 200,000 workers to heed the stayaway. "Many have declared Cosatu dead, but we have proven that we are a force many times." He dismissed concerns by some in business that the strike would dent investor sentiment.
"We agree that it will be bad for business, but it has always been bad for workers, who had the raw end of the deal. Now business must feel the squeeze because … we are in … a crisis of capitalism," he said.
Business was so desperate that it was now venturing into politics and "speaking out at funerals", said Dlamini, in a tacit reference to AngloGold Ashanti chairman Sipho Pityana ’s calls for President Jacob Zuma to step down.
Cosatu’s strike notice referred to public transport issues but the action now includes demands for a national minimum wage and the total banning of labour brokers.
Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim earlier this week urged members not to participate in the strike. Jim said Numsa was focusing its attention on wage talks.
On Thursday the union signed a three-year wage deal in the tyre sector covering about 4,000 workers, who will get increases of 8.5% in the first year and 8.8% for two years thereafter.
Fawu general secretary Katishi Masemola on Thursday said he had encouraged members not to strike as they might not be protected.