What Are The Implications For Workers In The Current Employment Bloodbath?

Vol 23 No 1

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How will the ANC government reverse the unemployment trend which recently increased to more than 27%? After seeing jobless growth for nearly a decade up to 2007, the economy of South Africa  started to haemorrhage jobs from 2009 onwards. This process started in the wake of job shedding for nearly a decade in the textile and mining industries. The years 2016 and 2017 revealed a bloodbath again within these sectors,  coupled with mass retrenchment that are currently being experienced in the poultry industry. This is despite a situation especially in the textile industry where the union SACTWU, was prepared to allow employers to employ workers at 20% less than the Bargaining Council wage agreement.

The impact of poverty and hunger will hit all of these workers and their dependents when the small severance packages dry up. The textile industry sits in a situation where an entire household would normally work for the same company as the industry has a history of recruiting their workforce through family relations. You thus find a situation where a mother, daughter and son work for the same factory and when it closed down the whole support structure within this family is destroyed.

It was reported that more than 1 500 poultry farm workers have lost their jobs in 2016, while well over 3 000 poultry farm workers are in the process of being retrenched as companies are closing down. Earlier this month, AngloGold Ashanti announced plans to retrench about 850 employees. It is reported that one mineworker supports up to eight dependents. This came with the news that the amended Mineral Resources and Petroleum Development Amendment Bill will limit any future mining permits to majority black-owned South African companies. This offers endless enrichment opportunities for the political connected.

The merger of SAB Miller and ABInBev resulted in another exercise of retrenchment as some of the midlevel and senior management positions are being deemed redundant. These unlucky persons will be offered voluntary retrenchment packages. The same might happen when the current merger talks between PPC Cement and Afrisam are completed during this period.

 Sub-contracting and casualisation is becoming the order of the day. All this means that huge numbers of the working class and landless peasantry are trapped in grinding poverty. The ANC government response to this crisis was to announce a minimum wage of R20 per hour with great fanfare.  According to experts on  a Lynette Francis program on “Radio Sonder Grense”, 50 percent of the working population earns less than this. In Parliament, President Jacob Zuma  claimed that The Expanded Public Works Programme created 2.5 million “job opportunities”. From 2014-16 these opportunities lasted only three months and amounted to only a fifth of the target set by in the National Development Plan. These jobs pay just R84/day, half the R20/hour agreed as per the new minimum wage. And R20/hour still leaves a family of four well below the poverty line.

 World Capitalism is in a crisis and South Africa shows just another symptom of this crisis!

  What is to be done?

The South African working class is still held hostage by the notion that political parties within the parliament that was formed after the negotiated settlement will solve the socio-economic problems. These parties are governed by the constitution which was negotiated based on the requirements of the Brettonwood agreements. In other words, a capitalist constitution and all these ills cannot be addressed by the capitalists as it is not in their interests. We therefore call for a constituent assembly that will and must address the interests of the working class and landless peasantry.