Workers belonging to the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) are assessing their approach to the upcoming 2024 general elections. Fedusa, which represent almost 600 000 workers in various sectors of the country’s labour force, is hosting a three-day inaugural political school in Kempton Park.
The trade union federation says its members are constantly worried about load shedding, the prevalence of retrenchments due to a constrained economy and the overall socio-economic challenges they face. Fedusa says it’s now re-evaluating its stance in the face of a changing political and economic sphere. It believes the upcoming elections will be crucial for workers and the country.
Fedusa wants tangible change to the lives of workers. I
t says the current economic set-up in the country, accompanied by lack of political will, has led to workers finding themselves in the worst conditions in the democratic history of South Africa. Fedusa is the second largest union federation in the country and says it can’t be business as usual. It is now pushing for the workers to adopt a strategic approach to the 2024 elections.
“Now more than ever, leadership is required to be demonstrated as we face upheavals in many such ways. We are facing an onslaught, workers are facing the onslaught. We are faced with a massive increase in fuel prices, we are now at stage 6 of load shedding. How much more of this hardships do we have to find ourselves before we actually get to the position of saying enough is enough,” says Riefdah Ajam, Fedusa General Secretary.
The federation has gathered office bearers of 21 of its unions from across the country in conversation with thought leaders to take stock of the political climate and the country’s economy.
“We’ve got to consider these things seriously and ask ourselves what socio-political interventions do we need to make on the shop floor, in the workplaces, in the schools, in the communities through SGBs where we find ourselves as Fedusa and we find ourselves to have influence. How do you prepare society for an electoral outcome that has never been seen after 1994?” says Lukhona Mnguni, Political Analyst and Rivonia Circle Research Director.
Load shedding and access to affordable and clean energy also came under the spotlight as workers call for social protection in the midst of their day-to-day hardships. The United Nations says energy security forms part of the Sustainable Development Goals as it continues to work with South Africa to better the economy.
“This is an issue that is quite pertinent and timely in South Africa, that is really going through the pains of an energy crisis but also embracing the opportunity of an energy transition. We are called upon as a global planets community to uphold sustainable development which leaves no one behind and protects the planet. This will help to ensure the whole of society intervention, how the unions, government, business and civil society can play its part in bringing about the change that is needed,” says Nelson Muffuh, UN Resident Coordinator in South Africa.
The workers participated in discussions with some calling for the issue of collective bargaining to be addressed. They also want the role of business and labour to take a front seat on issues affecting the economy.
Fedusa is pushing to reposition its role in South Africa’s political economy during what it terms as a ‘time of crisis’ for the country’s labour force.
It has taken issue with government, policies and certain decisions that it says continues to squeeze the life of workers as it calls for further robust discussions that will ensure political emancipation and economic liberation for the country’s workers.