Consider rights of vulnerable during strikes‚ Ramaphosa urges workers

President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Image: GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for workers to always consider the rights of vulnerable groups during strikes.

Speaking at the May Day celebration in Port Elizabeth‚ Ramaphosa said the government wished to protect the right of workers to strike and protest.

However‚ there was growing concern that those who embarked on strikes did not care about the rights of others‚ especially vulnerable groups.

“We must look very carefully about how as working people we engage in our industrial action. We must look very carefully as to how as working people we are able to look after the vulnerable people in our society.

“Recently‚ where there have been strikes and protests‚ we have found that some of the workers have actually been preventing other workers from doing very important work‚ such as helping women to give birth…

“We are saying no‚ let us have ubuntu. Even when we are on strike‚ there are certain services that are important. In the past‚ children have died as a result of us as workers no executing some of our duties‚” Ramaphosa said.

Recently‚ protests by North West residents and a go-slow by the National Education‚ Health‚ and Allied Workers' Union for unpaid bonuses resulted in deaths of people in the province.

Ramaphosa was delivering the keynote address at the main May Day celebrations hosted by the Congress of SA Trade Unions.

He also used the opportunity to explain why government was backing the proposed national minimum wage of R20 an hour.

“There are those who are saying that the minimum wage should have been R15‚000 or R12‚000. Yes‚ we want workers to get that type of wage. But at the same time‚ many workers in our country would have lost their jobs. Many companies would have closed. Domestic workers would have lost their jobs because even those who employ domestic workers would have said to them I can’t afford to pay you‚ therefore I release you to go home‚” he said.

He added: “We had to balance between losing millions of jobs and establishing a firm base and a foundation for us to continue waging the struggle for a living wage. That is what we chose. Others would have preferred that we have a national minimum wage of R12‚000 and then I can promise you‚ half the people in South Africa would have lost their jobs.”

He said the decision to support the minimum wage was also taken in order to allow the economy to create jobs and attract investors.

Ramaphosa said the government wished to protect vulnerable workers in the economy.

“There are workers who work in the farm. There are workers who work in our homes. We want those workers to be given decent conditions of employment‚ salaries‚ and we also want the equalisation of pay between men and women.

“We still find in our country that there are those who pay men more than women for doing exactly the same type of job. We say this must come to an end‚” he said.

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