Today's National Day of Action was the largest mass demonstration seen in the country since the rolling mass action campaign of August 1992. That campaign was decisive in establishing political democracy. Hopefully, today's actions will drive the country away from workplace apartheid to industrial democracy.
COSATU is still awaiting estimates of the number of workers attending 15 of the 27 marches. From figures available for 12 areas so far, however, it seems certain that close on 500 000 workers nationally participated in the marches and rallies. Twelve of the protests we have received figures for were attended by approximately 307 000 workers. After receiving reports on the remaining 15 marches, COSATU will issue a final estimate tomorrow.
This massive turnout of workers in support of labour's negotiating position at Nedlac should make employers realise that the majority of workers will not be intimidated by their bellicose statements and threats. David Brink of Business SA must hope that workers do not decide to take him up on his irresponsible challenge of a six month strike. We don't make threats, we take action.
What is most remarkable is that this huge demonstration was despite the fact that millions of workers were threatened with disciplinary action by employer organisations. Further, a significant number of workers stayed at home as a result of some misleading press reports that today was a national stayaway.
COSATU congratulates workers for their discipline, unity and determination. It is historic that for the first time, the three major trade union federations have embarked on united action to achieve the goals of worker rights and industrial democracy.
COSATU rejects with contempt the NP's predictable and tired old line that workers demonstrated today because they were 'intimidated by trade unions'. This is not only an insult to the half a million workers who made sacrifices to attend today's marches. It is an insult to the intelligence of all South Africans. The NP has yet to wake to the reality of the new democracy which gives all South Africans the right to demonstrate for their rights.
Today marks the culmination of the first phase of the rolling mass action campaign for a worker-friendly LRA in 1995. COSATU will be holding a Special Executive Committee meeting tomorrow to assess the campaign, and to plan the way forward. We will be meeting with Fedsal and Nactu in preparation for the next formal round of negotiations later this week.
No reports have yet been received of disciplinary action being taken by employers. But we want to repeat our warning that COSATU will target any employers who victimise workers for participating in today's action.
We now expect employers to take our demands seriously, and table tangible proposals which can form the basis for meaningful negotiations. We remain convinced that the deadline for passing a new LRA in 1995 can still be achieved.