The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) is set to demonstrate its might on Wednesday when it embarks on its first national protest against new labour laws and the introduction of the national minimum wage.
The year-old federation, which has an unaudited membership of more than 750,000, is unhappy with changes to the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Act, among others.
The federation said it would bring the country to a standstill, as the employed and unemployed would be joining the mass action.
Saftu has described the amendments to the Labour Relations Act, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the approved R20-per-hour minimum wage rate as "the biggest attack" on workers since the end of apartheid.
On Tuesday, the parliamentary portfolio committee on labour approved amendments to the labour bills that will ensure that sectoral wage determinations for vulnerable sectors are retained.
One of the new amendments will ensure that the limited definition of a worker, as erroneously contained in a previous draft law, is changed to reflect the decision of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) to include independent contractors and task-based workers.
The South African Federation of Trade Unions hit the streets as part of a nationwide strike on Wednesday April 25 2018 in an effort to raise concerns over a proposed R20 per hour minimum wage.
Saftu’s position comes as other labour federations including Cosatu and the Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa), celebrated the new laws, hailing the national minimum wage as the most progressive labour policy in post-democratic SA. However, both organisations have also said the new rate would still not guarantee workers a living wage.
The new trade union federation cannot bank on the support of the country’s other labour federations, which have been part of the Nedlac negotiations that decided on the draft policies Saftu is contesting.
Saftu’s national strike comes amid the bus strike that has affected thousands of commuters across the country.
Wednesday’s national strike is being led by, among others, Saftu’s biggest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa). Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said they had received reports indicating that some employers were "deliberately misleading" workers by stating that union members could not take part in the strike as they were not "specifically named" in the strike certificate.
"Numsa supports the strike and further extends the clarion call to all workers in South Africa, regardless of union or federation that organise them," Jim said. "Workers, regardless of different banners, stand to benefit from demands advanced by Numsa and other Saftu unions," he added.
The strike will negatively affect the metal, steel and engineering sectors where Numsa has most of its members.
The Food and Allied Workers Union, which represents employees in the agriculture, beverage bottling and canning sectors, said it would encourage members to strike.
Marches to various government departments and offices of premiers will take place in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, East London and other major centres.