30 April 2018

 

The International Workers’ Day, celebrated globally on 1 May each year, is a symbolic day in the calendars of many working-class formations locally and internationally. It is a day that has seized many trade unionists who come together to celebrate the struggles of workers underlining their successes while setting out agendas for future programs. It is a day that was set out on 1 May 1886 when over 300 000 workers in the USA left their workplaces to demand an eight (8) hour working day.

Over the years this day has been adapted to celebrate various labour struggles in different contexts, in different countries. Suffice to mention, there have been different standards internationally in determining the workers day with some Countries using the first Monday of May while other countries such as the USA celebrate this day on the first Monday of September. This goes on to show therefore that there is no static symbolism attached to the 1 May date, which can overridden by peculiar circumstances that are definitive of a Country’s history, giving rationale to the choice of a specific date for the recognition and celebration of workers’ day.

AMCU is a progressive labour movement that has celebrated the struggles of local and international workers throughout its existence. We have continued to recognise and celebrate the international workers day religiously over the years.

However, with the Lonmin (Marikana) Massacre in our midst, we have begun to view this tipping point in our labour relations landscape as more emblematic and representative of South African working-class struggles.

The Lonmin (Marikana) Massacre was the epitome of working class struggles in our recent past and allegorically represents the unified struggles of all workers in different sectors of our economy.

Workers in Lonmin pursued a struggle for radical economic transformation at a time when this rhetoric had not usurped the hegemonic discourse in socio-political spheres. The Lonmin (Marikana) Massacre has managed to captivate intellectual, policy and legislative narratives while exposing limitations in our low-wage regime throughout the economy.

The dichotomy between a living wage and minimum wage, has been elevated to national debates and campaigns on the backdrop of struggles incarnated by the 16 August 2012 Lonmin Massacre. The struggle against slave wages in the South African labour market has never been more relevant with the enactment of the National Minimum Wage of R20 per hour against a backdrop of R12500 monthly wage championed by Lonmin Workers in 2012.

We are cognisant of the fact that the current May Day holiday was an outcome of protracted struggles between workers of this country and the apartheid government. Since its recognition in 1994, it has figuratively stood as a victory for the working-class collective.

However, since history is dynamic, there are compelling grounds to review this date in line with recent experiences in our history. We are therefore instituting a campaign that seeks to transform the South African Workers’ Day from 1 May to 16 August each year. We seek to persuade authorities, law makers and fellow trade unionists in the Country to re-look the relevance of the current May Day celebrations within the prism of the Country’s history while considering an opportunity to align this important day for workers within dates that are more reminiscent of our own struggles.

As a trade union we hold the Lonmin (Marikana) Massacre in the same logical plane as the Soweto Uprising and the Sharpeville Massacres, just mention a few; which have managed to symbolise the youth and human rights struggles of our Country. It is this symbolism that gives meaning and relevance, within context, to a public holiday for whatever purpose.

We hereby make a clarion call to all progressive forces to commence with processes that will seek to review the Workers’ Day public holiday in the country, changing it to 16 August. This review should also institute mechanisms to do an introspection on the trajectory of working class struggles in our lifetime.

The glaring attack on working class gains characterised by the Ekurhuleni Declaration, the Labour Relations Amendment Bill 2017, and National Minimum Wage Bill introduce latest neo-liberal policy dominances within labour market discourse. Discussions at Nedlac, with labour formations that only represent less than a third of the working class in South Africa have sought to sustain a hegemonic narrative that seeks to undermine the right to strike and sustain slave wages.

This Nedlac cabal, which does not represent a majority of workers in the Country has gone to bed with employers and Government in introducing statutory barriers towards the exercise of the right to strike which will make it impossible for workers to comply and introduce technicalities to be exploited by employers and tilt the balance of forces.

In dealing with the issue of duration in strikes and violence in strikes, these champions of Neo-Liberal policies espoused by Nedlac, failed to look at options to introduce a duty to bargain on all employers as was the case pre – 1994 and introduce bans to scab labour which provokes violence in strikes. We view the champions of these Amendments as agents of institutionalised capitalism and an enemy to the proletariat masses of this Country.

We tender a message of solidarity and unity with all unionised and un-unionised workers, especially the Bus and Passenger Sector, and implore on everyone to realise that we cannot postpone our struggle for economic liberation in our lifetime. Workers cannot continue to be used as cannon fodder for spurious agendas outside their direct interest.

Those that want to use workers for political careerism without principle must be shunned.

In the last Cosatu May Day, the former State President was not allowed to address workers on the basis of a principle, which deemed him as having violated his oath of office under a cloud of corruption accusations.

If Cosatu was consistent they would use the same principle approach to review the address by the current State President; a champion in neo-liberal minimum wage as well as oppressive labour relations amendments and a conflicted Lonmin (Marikana) Massacre associate who is yet to tender his apology.

The May Day celebrations therefore cannot be an opportunity to hold meaningless rallies underscored by agendas at a tangent to working class issues.

Workers Day must commemorate OUR struggle. Lonmin (Marikana) Massacre is the epitome of our struggle. 16 August must be OUR Workers Day. Government must declare 16 August as South African workers day in commemoration of the Lonmin Marikana massacre

We therefore wish to advise the public, our colleagues and fellow comrades that we will commence with our Workers’ Day celebrations in Marikana on 16 August 2018 as part of this campaign to make this day the official workers’ day for South Africa. We will therefore not be holding any May Day celebrations throughout the Country. We invite all Federations, Trade Unions and un-unionised workers alike, to join us in this campaign to provide greater meaning and relevance to this important day for workers. Alutaa!