21 February 2014

Stop Retrenchments and Convene a Sector Wide Job Summit!

 For some time now there has been a low intensity onslaught on jobs in the retail, wholesale and hospitality sectors that have seen thousands of workers losing their jobs, leaving working and poor families more vulnerable. Most recently workers at Edcon and Sun International South Africa (SISA) are living with the threat of retrenchments of more than 3 400 workers over their heads.

 At Sun International more than 700 workers while the Edcon Group, after having already retrenched more than 1 100 workers over the last twelve months, gave notice of their intention to retrench a further 1 700 workers. While at the same time in the recent past we have witnessed retrenchments and / or restructuring at Woolworths, Metcash, Pick ‘n Pay 700, while at the JD Group and Ellerines we have witnessed ongoing retrenchments where on a regular basis, in some instances virtually on a weekly basis, we receive notices of the closing of some of their operations/stores invariably leading to job losses.

 That these retrenchments are taking place around the time of the debates on the Youth Wage Subsidy bill and the enactment of the Employment Tax Incentive Act, our campaign against labour brokering, constant attempts by employers to erode gains made by around labour legislation as they pursue their desire for a more deregulated labour market to that which will make workers more vulnerable and allow them at will to exploit workers and make their profits more than a mere coincidence for us. Indeed, older workers retrenched now are to be in the near future replaced by those for which these employers would get the Government incentives; thus at this very early stages of promulgating such laws, vindicating Labours’ assertion and objection to the Employment Tax Incentive Act, Labour broking and casualisation and for a National Minimum Wage.

 While there might be some real economic considerations to take into account, like slow economic growth, increases in interest and inflation rates, fuel increases, food and other basic goods and services increases coupled with the advent of e-tolling, as well as some global trends over the last few years should all be factored into our understanding, we must ask the question, why must workers pay for a failing bosses system.

 While we are engaging employers at the level of the CCMA with regards to the current spate of retrenchments; we believe the rampant retrenchments and growing casualisation in the sector call for a qualitatively different intervention. Not only to save jobs, but also to save the industry.

 It is in his context that we reiterate our call for a Sectoral Summit, which will bring all employers and organised labour together to chart the way forward for clearly crisis ridden sector. This we believe is the only way in which we can arrest the job losses, agree on national minimum wages that will protect and increase workers disposal income, ensure decent employment and improve the state of the Sector and its role in economic development of the country. Failing to confront this challenges faced by the sector in this manner will only contribute to growing unemployment, growing impoverishment and growing inequality, a state of affairs our country can ill afford.

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