The Leadership of Cosatu, the ANC, and SANCO,
Comrades and friends
This Workers Day takes place in the year when we celebrate sixty years since the adoption of the Freedom Charter, sixty years since the formation of the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) and thirty years since the formation of the revolutionary trade union federation, Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).
We come from a proud tradition of unity and struggle, forged in the trenches of our struggle for liberation. The relationship between the ANC and COSATU is still best summed up by the following quotation from Nkosi Albert Luthuli, at the SACTU Congress in 1959;
"While the South African Congress of Trade Unions must thus pursue an independent policy in the interests of the workers, it must also participate unreservedly in the struggle to mobilise the people behind their demands as embodied in the Freedom Charter and must cooperate with all other organisations engaged in this struggle."
There shall be Work and Security
The Peoples` Movement can take great pride in the fact that South Africa is a better place to live in today than it was not so long ago. This is due to our united efforts to bring about a better life for all and we must remain steadfast in our efforts.
Together, the ANC and COSATU ensured that the rights of workers are protected in our Constitution and many progressive laws.
Chief amongst these is the right of workers to form and belong to trade unions which is enshrined in the Constitution.
The constitution also states that everyone has the right to fair labour practices, and that every worker has the right to strike. The ANC government has also enacted legislation to further protect and advance worker rights thanks to the struggles of COSATU and its affiliates over the years.
These laws include the following:
1. The Labour Relations Act
2. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act
3. The Employment Equity Act
4. The Skills Development Act
5. The Unemployment Insurance Act 30
6. The Occupational Health and Safety Act
7. The Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act
These laws have been designed to protect the rights of workers, guide wage determination and general working conditions of South African workers. The laws protect children from being abused as child labour, protects the rights of women to go on maternity leave and not lose their jobs. It provides the rights of workers to be trained and provided with the necessary skills.
Most importantly, the country`s labour legislation now protects the rights of vulnerable workers such as farm workers, domestic workers and workers in the hospitality sector such as hotels and similar establishments. These are all rights that were gained through the hard work of workers in this country led primarily by COSATU.
This year in the State of the Nation Address we announced further amendments to the labour legislation and introduced a new labour regime aimed to further improve rights and protect workers.
We have the landmark Public Employment Services Actwhich formally establishes a public employment service in South Africa on a similar basis as that which exists elsewhere in the world. This is a free public employment mechanism where work seekers can register, and be matched to vacancies.
Through this law we are regulating the practices of private employment agencies and temporary employment services, to prevent the abuse of unsuspecting work seekers.
Government is also working on an amendment of the Unemployment Insurance Act to improve benefits to beneficiaries and also include public servants in the application of the Act.
Some of the proposed improvements are:
- Increasing the benefit period from 238 to 365 days;
- Increasing Flat rate maternity benefits to 66%;
- Illness benefits can be claimed for seven days of absence from work;
- Unemployment benefit can be lodged within twelve months instead of six months;
- To increase period to claim death benefits from 6 to 18 months;
The good news is that the Unemployment Insurance Fund has signed funding agreement to the value of 154 million rand with various sectoral education and training authorities for the on training of unemployed beneficiaries.
The UIF has also will also set aside 10% of its investment portfolio for investment in job creation projects and this amounts to 10 billion rand.
The ANC has in its 2014 election manifesto committed itself to investigate a national minimum wage as a key mechanism to reduce income inequality. Talks on the modalities of a national minimum wage are ongoing under the auspices of NEDLAC and we expect there to be a report back on key issues by July 2015.
While it may take time to realise this policy imperative, the ANC will continue to work in alliance with the formations of the working class to ensure that pro-poor and pro-working class policies are realised and to reduce inequalities.
Our democracy and our movement have always stood for unity.
There can be no compromise on these principles and May Day gives us a good opportunity to re-commit ourselves to unity.
The ANC is very concerned that the very real challenges experienced by our ally, COSATU, are leaving more room for capital to exploit the working class.
We wish to remind workers that the interests of workers are best served when organized under a strong and united COSATU.
The People shall Share in the Country`s Wealth.
This second phase of our transition is the phase where we continue to intervene in the economy to ensure that our people reap the tangible benefits of our political transition.
It cannot be correct that, twenty-one years after democracy, the apartheid ownership patterns continue unabated. This will change.
We are continuing to invest in youth development and we need to work more closely with our ally, COSATU, to ensure that programmes targeting youth employment are having the correct developmental impacts. We will continue ensuring that the vast mineral wealth of our country benefit all our people calls for far closer collaboration between all Alliance partners.
We will continue addressing the energy situation, which calls for pragmatic collaboration between all sectors of society. Energy is a critical requirement for economic growth and job creation. Addressing the scourge of corruption is intertwined with our fight for radical economic transformation. This has long been a priority of our Movement.
We must continue to lead in all efforts at all levels in stamping out this cancer in our society!
Our Alliance is `borne out of struggle` and we have a historic and revolutionary duty to provide leadership to society. It is incumbent upon us to display the most exemplary conduct at all times.
Let us unite as the Alliance in pursuit for economic freedom.
Let us unite our country, South Africa and our people!
I wish all workers in our land a Happy Worker`s Day!