Labour unions have asked President Jacob Zuma to make good on a promise to cap the salaries of high-income earners, accusing business of not co-operating with them to improve economic conditions.
In their written submission to a meeting of the presidential working group on labour at the Union Buildings on Tuesday, trade union representatives said: “We need to revisit the notion of a package to raise the incomes of those at the bottom, combined with a freeze on the salaries of high income earners.”
They said a new wage policy should address the wage inequality in the economy.
The workers’ leaders had strong words for Zuma, saying the government hasn’t followed through on economic policies and lacks clarity on what has happened to some of the ANC’s promises.
Despite Zuma saying in his opening remarks that cooperation between business and labour successfully softened the blow of the 2008 global economic downturn, labour labelled the action “inadequate”.
The unions also said business is not doing its bit in helping to keep the economy afloat.
“While society is in crisis, many in business appear oblivious, raking in large profits, salaries and bonuses, and taking the social surplus offshore.
“Social stability, which business espouses, is not possible unless current conditions are radically transformed,” they said in their input.
Labour has suggested a 6- to 12-month programme to curb the economic crisis and change the structure of the economy.
The interventions include pushing government to “implement its own policies and meet its publicly made commitments” on issues like more local procurement and industrial policy.
New policy approaches needed
They also include considering new policy approaches where old ones have “clearly failed”, and where different policies are needed to ensure structural economic transformation.
Labour also said government should tell them how it has progressed on new policies like the black industrialists’ programme, and also on policies where changes are being considered.
“Government needs to make a frank and honest assessment of developments, and what obstacles (there) are to realisation of government policies in key areas,” the submission said.
Labour also called for a discussion on the ratings downgrade, and measures taken to avoid it. They said some of the policies government has adopted to avert the downgrade had “the effect of worsening the economic situation, and deepen(ing) the very economic problems which ratings agencies claim to be concerned with”.
Labour is, for instance, critical of government’s austerity measures, arguing it should be spending more to expand the tax base.
Zuma in his opening remarks thanked labour for cooperating with business and government to avoid recent rating downgrades, among others by going on an international pro-South Africa roadshow.
“If we work together in the manner we have done in the past few months, I am convinced that we will overcome the challenges that we face,” Zuma told the meeting.
Zuma said the sectors should all work together as they had done in 2008, when a global economic downturn loomed.
“We have had success before of working together to find practical solutions to our immediate challenges. As you would recall, after the onset of the global economic crisis in 2008, we crafted a strategy to cushion the impact of the crisis on workers.
“We need that spirit to address our challenges today.”
By Carien du Plessis for Fin24