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Saturday, October 08, 2016
South Africans fight for better working conditions
Tens of thousands of workers took to the streets on Friday in support of Cosatu’s mass action campaign for decent work and improved public transport. The one-day strike, in support of International Decent Work Day, saw marches across the country. All of Cosatu’s affiliates came out in support of the protest, including the SA Clothing and Textile Workers Union, which said reports indicated that most of its members supported the strike. In the Free State’s Phuthaditjhaba area, 93% of clothing workers at 21 factories stayed away from work. While Phuthaditjhaba is an important part of South Africa’s clothing manufacturing sector, almost all clothing workers are paid sub-minimum wages and work under deplorable conditions. The area is known for exploitation and sweatshops. In Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal, more than 2 000 clothing workers joined the strike
“Most of these workers toil in appalling sweatshop conditions, earning bitterly low wages. On International Decent Work Day today, they raise their voices strongly against poverty wages being paid by employers in Newcastle,” SA Clothing and Textile Workers Union said.
Tswatle Morena teaches at a public school in Tembisa‚ Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg. According to information obtained from a salary rating website‚ a newly qualified educator and those with less than five years’ experience earn R115,276 a year in SA‚ while those with five-to-nine-years experience earn between R124,038 and R146,087 a year. Teachers with more than 10 years’ experience earn R146,088 or more a year.
“Teachers own nothing. We are owned by the banks. The car I drive is not mine. The house I stay in is not mine. I wear debts. Everything is debts‚ that is the reason I am saying we don’t belong to ourselves‚ but to business‚" he said.
Thulani Mokoena is a young worker at one of the retailers in Eastgate Shopping Centre‚ east of Johannesburg.
“I get paid R2,400 a month for all the hard work I put in. I start my day at 9am and knock off at 7pm. All these hours it is hard work. gbWe know the company is making money but they are not paying us. What we get is not even peanuts. I would call it half of a peanut‚" he said.
A nurse working at one of the Durban’s biggest public hospitals, Abigail Mthethwa’s, job starts at the labour ward operating theatre at 6.45am and she works until 4pm or 6pm. She sometimes works a nightshift and most of the days she works longer than her scheduled shift.
"We work under difficult conditions. There are so many people that we have to help on just one shift. There are more patients than the number of medical staff available [can handle] on a day. We end up not having a lunch break‚" said Mthethwa. “Sometimes I continue working feeling that I am doing this because my job is important and it involves people’s lives. If you go an extra mile‚ nobody feels for you and there is no compensation of any kind. When you work beyond your shift‚ the bosses tell you there is no overtime. There is no money. You just have to take that."