Cosatu will not take action against workers who disrupted May Day celebrations: Phetoe

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The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has announced that no action will be taken against workers who disrupted its main May Day celebrations at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium outside Rustenburg in the North West.

Cosatu Deputy General Secretary Solly Phetoe says the union sympathises with the workers but it doesn’t support the disruption of the event.

President Cyril Ramaphosa was forced to abandon Cosatu’s main May Day celebrations at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in the North West province. Some workers disrupted the event forcing him to leave without addressing workers.

They were accusing the president and the ANC-led government of failing and refusing to honour the 2018 collective bargaining agreement it entered into with labour. They have blamed the governing party for allowing the matter to be ventilated in the courts which ultimately ruled in favour of employers.

‘May Day a day of reflection’

Cosatu president Zingisa Losi says she doesn’t believe that the federation’s members shunned the May Day celebrations. Losi says there were members who were listening to the speeches.

“We are not disputing the fact that there were those who were singing. Hence they said that their issues are issues relating to Sibanye. At the same time, we have acknowledged that the May Day commemoration is a day of reflection. Part of what we were reflecting on is to acknowledge what we have attained but also acknowledge the shortcomings, especially during this period of Covid-19. It has been a difficult two and half years for workers when they have lost wages, whilst big companies and big managers are pocketing millions of rands a month when workers are earning starving wages.”

May Day celebrations descended into chaos: Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi

Battle lines

Battle lines are drawn between the ANC-led government and the public servants affiliated with some Cosatu unions. And the battleground was the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg – the venue for the main May Day celebrations.

At the heart of the political difference between the life-long comrades is the government’s failure to honour the third level of the 2018 three years collective bargaining agreement.

Although having honoured the first two years of the agreement, the government said because of its fiscal constraints and the fact that the 2018 public wage deal drove spending beyond the 110 billion rand expenditure bracket, the agreement was unaffordable in its third year. And National Education and Health Allied Workers Union members were seething with anger storming the pitch and telling the president to leave.

Others also jumped onto the podium forcing organisers to call off the event. Nehawu’s Acting Deputy General Secretary TJ Madihlaba was unyielding in his criticism of the president.

Meanwhile, ANC NEC member Obed Bapela says the disruption of Cosatu’s main May Day celebrations is an embarrassment to its leadership. The ANC says as much as it understands the anger and frustrations of the workers, the disruptions that forced party president Cyril Ramaphosa to leave without addressing workers were an embarrassment.

And after a not-so-helpful day for alliance politics, both Cosatu and the ANC are now saying the sharp differences between workers and government will be raised at the forthcoming Alliance Political Council.