SAA workers fight for better wages and jobs
On Wednesday morning, the Workers and Socialist Party joined and supported the striking workers at South African Airways. Our comrades in SAFTU succeeded in putting forward a motion calling for the SAFTU Central Committee to join the picket and pledge solidarity with the strike. About 100 members and leaders of SAFTU and its affiliates stood shoulder to shoulder with striking workers on the picket line at OR Tambo International airport.
The bosses of SAA have taken a conscious class approach towards the strike, instead of approaching the matter strictly from the narrow economic considerations of SAA. If there was any doubt on that, this was further confirmed by the revelations of the losses the airline has incurred since the beginning of the strike; the conduct of the SAA management in the negotiation and public declarations of government in response to requests for a further bail-out.
The unprecedented intervention of the Department of Labour in the strike is further evidence of this co-ordinated political onslaught. The department has written a letter to Numsa demanding proof of compliance with the new anti-trade union amendments to the labour laws, especially a requirement for a secret ballot. This is calculated to intimidate the unions and prepare for the possibility of declaring the strike ‘unprotected’ in accordance with the draconian anti-trade union amendments to the labour laws.
The media has reported losses amounting to R200 million in four days of the strike – an amount which could have easily settled the strike. The NUMSA report of the last minute withdrawal of management’s offer of a 6,5% increase clearly reveals that Treasury, which is expressed preference for liquidation of SAA, is dictating the terms of negotiations and are hell-bent on digging in its heels rather than make concessions to the modest demands of NUMSA and South African Cabin Crew Association, the trade unions organising the striking workers.
In a remarkable demonstration of class unity and determination to fight, the strike remains solid after days of intransigence of the SAA bosses and relentless attacks and demonization by the capitalist class through all their mouthpieces. Mainstream media reporting is unanimous in their blatant blackmail of the workers as well as their cynical attempts to blame workers for the crisis of SAA caused by years of looting by the ZUPTA gang, mismanagement and neo-liberal restructuring.
Workers and Socialist Party calls on Numsa and SAFTU to escalate the support for the strike. The workers movement cannot afford this defeat which is clearly a prelude to attacks on the workers in ESKOM, PRASA, and other state-owned entities (SoEs). It is clear that government wants to dismantle the SOEs and is moving towards wholesale privatisation to provide outlets for monopoly capital that is currently hoarding cash estimated at R1,4 trillion and desperately searching for profitable outlets.
We have again called for SAFTU to organise a general strike to link struggles of workers in SAA with workers in all parastatals and in the private sector where employers are also mounting resistance against wage demands and imposing retrenchments to demoralise workers trying to fight for better wages and defend conditions of employment. After the Central Committee decision, WASP will be actively working to mobilise workers, affiliates and other forces necessary to make the general strike successful.
We reject the imposition of the consequences of looting on workers and calling on the working class to join a fight to save SAA. Part of this struggle should be a demand to end corruption and mismanagement. But none of this is possible on the basis of the current boards and management of SAA, ESKOM and PRASA amongst other parastatals. The boards are made up of the same corporate elite that is exploiting and plundering the working class in the private sectors and who use state-owned entities for their corporate interests and personal enrichment. SAA and other state-owned entities must be placed under the control and management of the working class – workers, trade unions and communities. In the final analysis, the real alternative to the crisis of state-owned entities and every industry in turmoil is the nationalisation and democratic planning and management of the commanding heights of the economy by the working class, where SAA and other SoEs will serve a socially useful functions in the interests of majority and not the few. For that, the working class must rebuild its mass organisations and movement including a mass political party to unite and struggle for a socialist alternative to the crises of capitalism.