Cosatu demands privatisation moratorium
By Ellis Mnydandu, Reuters
23 June 2000
Johannesburg (Reuters) - Labour federation Cosatu on
Thursday demanded a moratorium on the government's privatisation
drive, saying the move threatened to swell the country's jobless ranks.
The call came from Zwelinzima Vavi, general-secretary of
the 1.8 million-strong Congress of South African Trade Unions.
He said the government should finalise a delayed social
plan designed to minimise the impact of restructuring on jobs
before going ahead with privatisation.
"What puzzles us is that whilst this major process of
restructuring that results in major job losses [is proceeding]
...there is hardly any
policy in place to guide it," Vavi told a news conference.
"The Cosatu executive committee insists a moratorium
be agreed to before any discussions on the rest of the matters are
pursued or concluded," he added.
South Africa's privatisation programme centres on the
restructuring and partial sell-off of the nation's four big
parastatals: defence group Denel, telecoms monopoly Telkom,
power utility Eskom and transport group Transnet.
The government has proposed to raise at least R40 billion
over the next four years from the process, which is cited as key
to boosting foreign investor confidence and delivering basic service
to millions of poor blacks.
But Cosatu has said privatisation should be guided by
social responsibility, such as safeguarding jobs.
Some 500 000 jobs have been lost since 1994, when the ANC
came into power.
The economy continues to shed jobs, and the offical
unemployment rate stood at 25.2 percent in October last year,
according to latest
statistics released by the Reserve Bank on Wednesday.
Vavi said Cosatu dismissed arguments that it was through
restructuring that South Africa could benefit from foreign
investment to fund job creation.
"The theory that we're being fed with is that we
should allow the job massacre now, and after everyone has been
thrown into the streets,
jobs will arise out of the ashes. This is nonsense that Cosatu
will never accept," he said.
He said the demand for a moratorium on restructuring would
form part of Cosatu demands at a job-creation forum, which
includes government, labour and business.
The forum met on Monday and agreed to look at possible
amendments to a section in the country's Labour Relations Act,
which Cosatu says gives employers increased powers to dismiss workers.
"The demand for the moratorium on the restructing is
now part of our overall demands," Vavi told Reuters.
He said if the government dithered Cosatu may be forced to
consider staging a national strike. Cosatu staged a one-day strike
in May to protest against job losses and the labour legislation.
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