While the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) claims its national strike held on Wednesday 7 March was a resounding success, business was counting losses. The Cosatu-led protests that saw many city centres ground to a halt were “warning shots” to the government that labour unions wanted e-tolling in Gauteng and labour brokers scrapped by the State, according to the union’s General Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi.
However, the SA Chamber of Commerce’s Neren Rau says the protests could have cost the country “billions of rands”. He explains: “It costs the country about R1 billion a day if labour is withdrawn from the economy, but when production and trade are affected then the cost could be as high as R10 billion.” It’s been reported that just over 200 000 people throughout the country participated in the strike.
While it seems that Cosatu garnered all the support it could get on Wednesday – with reports that 50-70% of Pick n Pay staff did not report for work and 62% of SA Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union members having participated in the strike – Adcorp labour economist Loane Sharpe says that doesn’t mean Cosatu won the battle. He said it’s unlikely that the government would change its stance on the tolling system or to ban labour brokers.
“The government, labour and business have approved proposed amendments to labour legislation at the negotiation forum Nedlac and the legal amendments are currently with the state legal advisers. And Cosatu is up against a wall [regarding e-tolling] because the minister of finance and the minister of transport have both said e-tolling will go ahead in April.”