The South African Federation of Trade Unions has sent a message of support and solidarity to the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) after the historic workers protest in Melbourne’s CBD which shut down roads and tram routes for three hours on Wednesday 9 May 2018.
100,000 workers marched in the city’s streets in support of ACTU’s nationwide “Change of Rules” campaign to demand better pay and work conditions, including an increase in the minimum wage of $50 (R450) a week on the current $695 (R6255) a week.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus said workers would keep fighting increased casualisation, low wage growth and inadequate job conditions. “At the moment, profits are going up and so is productivity. But wages aren’t,” she said.
This mighty march took place just two weeks after SAFTU’s general strike and countrywide marches in South Africa on 25 April and many of the demands in the two countries were the same – an end to poverty minimum wages, casualisation of labour and worsening conditions of employment – which are hitting workers across the world.
It also shows that workers in the two countries have had enough, and are prepared to take to the streets in their thousands to protest against the continuing and worsening of the exploitation of workers by a greedy monopoly capitalist elite.
Another similarity is that the target of the Australian workers is the Labour Party premier of Victoria State, Daniel Andrews. Just like the ANC leadership which talks about the Freedom Charter and radical economic transformation, they act in practice to defend the interests of the employers and the ruling class.
Andrews has said the Victoria State government wants a smaller minimum wage increase of about $27 a week. In its submission to the Fair Work Commission in March, it argued that an increase in the minimum wage, from $695 to $722, would be a modest and fair way and avoid the creation of a working underclass.
The latest action comes after the federal budget on Tuesday unveiled a tax offset of between $200 and $530 for workers earning up to $90,000 a year, from July.
But the Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary, Luke Hilakari, likened the measure to throwing “crumbs” to workers. “The $10 tax [a week] relief for poor and working people is just not good enough. They can keep that $10. What we actually want is a large pay rise. We don’t want a tax cut.”
Bureau of Meteorology employee Cameron Henderson said he and his co-workers were “starving” for a fair pay deal. “We haven’t had a pay rise in nearly five years,” he said. “Over that time, CPI’s gone up 10% and we’re being offered a deal that would see us remain at 10% CPI until the end of 2021.”
Port of Melbourne workers walked off the job and University of Melbourne employees went on strike for four hours and staged a rally in support of academic and intellectual freedom, and against a plan to put academic and professional staff on two separate workplace agreements.
The march stopped outside the Melbourne Magistrates court where the secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU), John Setka and his deputy, Shaun Reardon, were appearing for a committal hearing after allegedly blackmailing two executives of cement company Boral during a dispute in 2013. Speakers at the rally urged those gathered to show support for the two high-profile union leaders.
SAFTU is sending a message of support to its Australian fellow workers and will continue to build links with them and workers around the world.
Workers of the world unite!