Alarming report should act to unite the working class – COSATU

Federation says Oxfam International Inequality Report shows that the rich are getting richer

The latest alarming Oxfam International Inequality Report should act to unite the working class

23 January 2018

The Congress of South African Trade Unions has noted the latest Oxfam International Inequality Report that reveals that the rich are getting richer, while the poor are sinking further and further into the cesspool of poverty. The contents of this report are gloomy and depressing and confirm what we already know that the economic situation of the working class is not getting better.

We now know from the last report released by Statistics South Africa that more than half of the South African population live in poverty. In fact, the number of people living in extreme poverty (i.e. persons living below the 2015 Food Poverty Line of R441 per person per month) has increased by 2,8 million, to nearly 14 million. Women, children and the elderly are the hardest hit by poverty. This reality of the deepening and widening poverty was also confirmed by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), which reported that ‘in per capita terms South Africans are poorer than they were in 2014’.

The capitalist crisis in the world economy has remained intense, deep and prolonged. It is primarily borne out of contradictions of capitalism, in which production is social and the fruits of labour are appropriated privately by a handful of people. This capitalist crisis has driven down standards of living and the livelihoods of millions of people throughout the world. Unemployment has risen and wages remains depressed.  Although often coated with relatively short-lived, anaemic, upward or recovery cycles, all major western economies are experiencing a long downward drag.

According to a recent report by the IMF, “the global pickup in activity that started in the second half of 2016 gained further momentum in the first half of 2017”. But as workers we know that in both economic boom and crisis, it is the bosses that benefit and the workers that suffer. Obviously ,according to this latest Oxfam report it is the global 1% that has benefited out of this modest growth, and this includes the Apartheid oligarchy here at home.

Throughout the world, since the onset of the capitalist crisis, the ruling elites have imposed extreme sacrifices upon the workers. They have often succeeded where the unions are weak or are divided along narrow sectarian lines. In this unfolding capitalist crisis, trade unions need to respond with militancy and programmes of the mass-line in defending the working class and this must continue even though global capitalism seems to have started to recover.

The South African workers need to recognise that this country is facing economic decline, and that for the country to get out of this economic decay there will be attempts to force the workers to sacrifice their rights.

During this round of wage negotiations, unions need to take up the fight for better wages and improved benefits to the employers in a disciplined and fearless way. Unions should go out there and fight strong and hard for decent wage increases that will bring about meaningful change to the lives of the workers.

We need to realise that for us to fight back we need to be united as workers across union lines and adopt the idea of sympathy strikes and solidarity rallies embracing the widest sections of workers. A failure by trade unions to unite and collectively work together to defend the interests of our members in the face this widening social and economic crisis would be reckless and a form of cowardice that we would live to regret.

Issued by Sizwe Pamla, National Spokesperson, COSATU, 23 January 2018