The South African Federation of Trade Unions is outraged at the latest figures in Statistics SA ’s quarterly employment survey, which reveal a loss of 34,000 jobs in the second quarter of 2017.
The federation is not however surprised, as we have been predicting that further job losses were inevitable, given the current economic catastrophe, the rating agency downgrades, the stagnation of economic growth, the ongoing looting of the economy and the bankrupting of state-owned enterprises.
There was a small increase in jobs in trade and, surprisingly, mining, despite the thousands of retrenchment notices issued by mining employers in recent months, which means there is sure to be a drop in mining employment when the figures for the third quarter are released.
Most alarming in the second-quarter statistics is that the biggest job losses were 13 000 in manufacturing industry and 11 000 in construction, both key sectors which need to thrive if we are to rebuild the economy. Their decline confirms SAFTU’s fears that the country is being rapidly deindustrialised and reverting back to the colonial day when the country’s resources were being exported cheaply to be used in manufacturing industries elsewhere, and imported back in manufactured products.
This is leading to a long-term, if not permanent, collapse in the economy. This in turn will increase the levels of poverty and inequality, which is already the highest in the world. It will also lead to lower tax revenues, leading to more austerity cuts in the already low levels of government spending on education, health, and other vital services to communities.
Inevitably therefore we shall see more community protests which will become increasingly angry and frequently violent.
These protests will be joined by employed workers, who’s living standards are also under attack, which was confirmed by the same SatsSA survey which revealed that total earnings paid to employees declined by R2bn to R586bn in the 2nd quarter.
This has come about because of the drop in the number of jobs and the increasing number of remaining jobs being outsourced or casualised, the continued use of labour brokers and the undermining of centralized collective bargaining, all of which make it harder for workers to organize to defend, let along increase, their wages.
All of this is leading to more and more low-paid and insecure jobs and a rise in the size of the informal sector of marginalized and vulnerable workers struggling to survive on whatever odd amounts they can scrape together as car-guards, paper and plastic recycling, ‘illegal’ mining or even begging on street corners.
All this explains why our new federation is determined to priorities the organizing of all these people, the 76% of the total workforce who do not belong to any union and have no means of defending themselves from brutal exploitation and grinding poverty.
COSATU’s dismal failure this week to mobilize even their own members, let alone this broader mass of marginalized workers, show how vital will be SAFTU’s planned general strike in November, which will mobilize all workers, employed and unemployed, and poor communities, to wage a real fight against corruption, which COSATU’s leaders could never do because of their own record of support for a corrupt ANC government.
It will link the fight against corruption with the battle to save and create jobs and for higher wages, the drive to improve the delivery of services to the communities and the campaign to end the two-tier level of service in education, healthcare, public transport and safety and security.
All this will be impossible without a fundamental change of direction in economic policy, to escape from the clutches of the big, still mainly white-owned monopolies, their police force in the credit rating aganecies and their allies in the ANC government.
Some government and ANC leaders have started talks in empty words about ‘radical economic transformation’ to make them sound more radical then their factional opponents. In reality all the factions and leadership contenders have always implemented, and still support, the same conservative neoliberal policies like GEAR and the National Development Plan which are the main reason why we see the horrendous levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality.