'stand up to labour'

Finance Minister, Trevor Manuel, speaks in support of the ANC while addressing businesses on the ANC manifesto at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg. 18 March 2009. PIC:  DANIEL BORN. © THE TIMES
Finance Minister, Trevor Manuel, speaks in support of the ANC while addressing businesses on the ANC manifesto at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg. 18 March 2009. PIC: DANIEL BORN. © THE TIMES

TREVOR Manuel, the minister of National Planning in President Jacob Zuma's office, yesterday called business cowardly for crumbling too easily to labour - and also castigated trade unions for abusing the right to strike over social issues.

In strongly worded comments at the World Economic Forum in Cape Town, Manuel said in order to progress South Africans needed to redevelop the sort of trust that got them through the constitutional negotiations that led to democracy.

Warning that his remarks would be controversial, Manuel said: "I want to look for trouble with Pat Davis [Sasol] and Jimmy Manyi [Confederation of Black Business] because they are from business.

"You see there is nobody representing the class interests of business and when anybody from the trade unions opens their mouth, they run like hell. There is no counterweight in society and if there is no counterweight you can't have outcomes that actually advance and progress society," he said.

"So if we're going to have cowards in business, we're not going to get very far. You must have that counterweight if you want progress. Its fundamental to physics and its fundamental to politics," he said.

"You don't have to keel over every time somebody stands up and says I disagree with you."

But Manuel did not spare labour.

He accused the workers of abusing section 77 of the Labour Act, which allows for strikes over social, rather than workplace, issues.

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