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South African unions to walk out on national strike over job losses

TRADE unionists across South Africa are set to walk out tomorrow in a national strike as the country faces a shutdown over “privatisation, retrenchment and imperialism.”

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) called the strike – which is backed by affiliated unions covering most sectors including schools, hospitals, mining and textile workers – over job losses and privatisation.

Figures released by Statistics South Africa today showed that there were 6.1 million people without jobs in the three months to the end of December 2018, one of the highest unemployment rates in the world.

The South African Communist Party (SACP) backed the walkout, calling for a national strategy to deal with job losses “higher than at workplace level.”

It claimed in a statement that the real “crisis level unemployment rate” was as high as 38 per cent, according to the expanded definition of unemployment. It said 9.8 million South Africans are unemployed, requiring “economy-wide interventions” to tackle the issue.

Cosatu affiliate the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union (CEPPWAWU) warned of attempts by the ANC-led government to erode hard fought gains of the labour movement.

In a statement the CEPPWAWU said: “The responsibility falls upon all our members and the entire working class to revolt against privatisation, retrenchments, unemployment and imperialism.”

The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) – the largest education workers’ union in the country – said its members were joining the strike, warning of unsafe schools “targeted by criminals.”

It called on the government to fund more teachers with overcrowded classrooms having a negative impact on children’s learning and called for the strike to be legally protected by the issuing of a certificate.

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) will be joining today’s action calling its on its members to walk out across all provinces to “highlight the negative impact of job losses in both the private and public health sectors in the country. “

The union is demanding government action to “fill vacant nursing positions in many health facilities in the country so that quality healthcare can be provided to communities.”

Tomorrow’s action will be the first national strike since President Cyril Ramaphosa came to power in February 2018.

Cosatu spokesman Sizwe Pamla said: “The strike will be about fighting the ongoing job losses across all the sectors of the economy.”

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