Home Opinion and Features Are strikes the best way to help poor?

Are strikes the best way to help poor?

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One of the biggest failures of the democratic South Africa has been to reduce unemployment and raise living standards of the poor.

Saftu announced it will embark on a strike over what it terms "the biggest attacks on working-class people and trade unions since apartheid ended. Picture:Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency/ANA

OURS is a country deeply divided between the rich and the poor. So, is today’s planned strike against a minimum wage justified?

While R20 an hour – or R3500 a month – is not much, is it not better to have a minimum wage than work for less than that, or not work at all?

Or is the truth that the argument that R20 is better than nothing, a fallacious argument?

The new minimum wage was approved by cabinet in November, and was due to be implemented next week. However, Parliament must still approve the legislation, which is being redrafted, so it may not come into effect for another month or two.

While those who support a minimum wage believe it will go some way to reducing inequality and stimulating growth, its critics believe that it can have the reverse effect of what was intended, and see unemployment rise, and people worse off.

One of the biggest failures of the democratic South Africa has been to reduce unemployment and raise living standards of the poor.

The Labour Department is keen to push ahead the wage policy to stop the abuse of vulnerable workers in some sectors, such as domestic and farm workers.

But today’s strike has been called by the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) which says that the changes to the labour law – which could impact on the right to strike – and minimum wage proposal are an affront to the working class and the poor.

Cosatu has distanced itself from the strike because it supports a national minimum wage, which it believes will benefit some six million workers (40% of the workforce) who earn less than R20 an hour.

Today, tens of thousands of workers are expected to take to the streets to raise their voices.

While we should hear what they say, there should also not be undue delays in amending the Labour Relations Act the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the new National Minimum Wage Bill so as to improve the lot of the working class and the poor.