Pretoria – The number of retrenchment notices in South Africa is overwhelming as some employers are seemingly taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to cut jobs. National Union of of South Africa (Numsa) president Andrew Chirwa said employers were maximising profits without seeing that they were inhibiting the buying power of the nation.
Chirwa made these remarks on Friday at the union’s Engineering National Bargaining Conference at the Birchwood Hotel in Ekurhuleni.
“The crisis in South Africa was compounded by the lack of leadership and corruption,” Chirwa said.
“We are not even sure if we still have a president in this country or not. They are playing games with our lives and they forget about the economic police, the rating agencies like Moody’s, but at the end of the day the workers and the people will be the ones who suffer and have to pay for this.”
Delegates from across the country met at the three-day conference that sought to discuss and draw core resolutions against the lowering of benefits and conditions of workers, wage cuts, defend collective bargaining and stop de-industrialisation and a job-loss bloodbath.
Chirwa told delegates that it was the greedy nature of bosses that caused them to overproduce and over-invest in technologies in their quest to beat competitors and make more profits.
He said: “Because this system is riddled with contraction, in the same vein (that) they shed jobs they inevitably reduce the very demand for the goods that workers produce in the first place.
“It is the contradiction of the system, they over-produce but they are destroying the buying power of those who must buy the products they produce.”
Chirwa said while it appeared as if cutting jobs was “all some bosses think about”, managers of companies in South Africa were also allowed to fail to take responsibility for the lives of their workers who may lose their lives or suffer injuries while working.
He said 27 years after the dawn of democracy workers in South Africa still had to bear an apartheid era wage gap, with white colleagues earning many times more than their black counterparts doing the same work with the same experience and qualifications.
He said union members would go out of their way to fight to end the struggle of the workers who still lived hand-to-mouth, were overly indebted, did not have medical aid, and lived under constant stress due to the capitalism system that did not liberate them from poverty but paid them just enough to depend on the system.
Chirwa said the South African government was failing to show leadership to the private sector itself by imposing austerity budgets cuts and exiting agreements with unions and labour, and also by using exploitative stipend learnerships that did not create sustainable jobs.
Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said the conference took place at a time when the union was witnessing state-owned enterprises collapsing because the government was not funding them, but hoped to emerge with clear demands for Parliament to acknowledge that Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan had been “messing with the lives of the workers” for too long.