The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) have come out in full support of the rejection of the latest offer from the employers to the striking bus workers’ unions.
“Saftu urges all workers to continue and intensify their solidarity action in support of their fellow workers who are in the fourth week of a strike against intransigent employers,” said Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi in a statement on Saturday.
The strike, by more than 17 000 drivers, has ground transport services to a halt in many cities across the country, leaving commuters forced to find alternative transportation.
The strike has been supported by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu), the Transport and Omnibus Workers Union (Towu) and the Tirisano Transport and Services Workers Union.
Vavi also called on all unions and progressive civil society formations to send messages of support and to join the striking workers outside bus depots. He also advised them to prepare for solidarity action in the event that employers refused to settle.
Vavi said this was a critical struggle, not just for workers in the bus sector, but for the whole South African working class, who faced a “concerted offensive by bosses who think they have the upper hand against the workers”.
“They must be proved wrong!”
“The unions’ case for increased pay and better conditions is absolutely justified and so is their call for any agreement to be backdated to reflect the date when the new wage agreement was supposed to take effect, which in this case is April 1, 2018, and not from the date of signing, as employers are now demanding,” he said.
On Friday afternoon Numsa general secretary, Irvin Jim, said the unions would not be “blackmailed by the employers”.
“We are not here for the continuation of the strike. We want to say to the employers: Pay the workers,” he said.
“We are going to persuade the employers to come to the party. In fact, this is selfish on the part of the employers. We are saying the strike must come to an end this weekend.”
“The workers have so far been peaceful, and there is no need to provoke them by taking a hardline stand on the issue of back pay,” said Jim.
Vavi thanked the workers for being prepared to suffer hardship for themselves and their families, in order to escape from poverty and exploitation, and for their discipline and courage throughout the strike.
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