Friday, March 21, 2014

S.Africa's largest union marches for youth jobs

South Africa's 340,000-strong NUMSA union marched Wednesday to protest a new labour law it says will increase unemployment and poverty, amid a tense stand-off with the ruling ANC weeks before polls.

Thousands of people striked and marched across the country in support of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, the largest worker organisation in the country, to demand more policies to fight poverty.
NUMSA, which largely represents workers in the auto and metal sectors, is at odds with the African National Congress government over how to tackle youth joblessness.
It takes exception especially to a law signed in December that provides tax incentives for companies to employ more young people, which the union says will discriminate against older workers.
Around 3,000 people wearing the union's trademark red t-shirts and berets marched in Johannesburg's Rosebank business centre.
"This incentive is causing division between workers," said Leepile Khumalo, an artisan and union representative.
"It's not an incentive for employers to employ," he told AFP.
Petrol attendant Patience Modisakeng accused authorities of failing to support struggling workers.
"We want the government to improve conditions, so that more jobs are available," she said.
At a march in Durban, union leader Zwelinzima Vavi said the new laws would not reduce unemployment.
"Employers will employ more young workers, line their pockets with the generous subsidy, while retrenching an equal or greater number of older workers," said Vavi, who was recently suspended as leader of the umbrella federation Cosatu which Numsa belongs to.
NUMSA currently has frosty relations with the ANC-Cosatu ruling alliance, accusing them of betraying their socialist roots.
The union supports Vavi, who is fighting a suspension for an alleged affair with an employee -- a charge his backers slammed as trumped-up because of his vocal criticism of President Jacob Zuma.
Millions of South Africans are growing restless with growing inequality between rich and poor and almost 24 percent unemployment two decades into democracy.
Every year, disgruntled South Africans stage hundreds of often-violent protests in Africa's wealthiest economy against poor public services and joblessness.
Dissatisfaction with Nelson Mandela's ANC may lead to a reduced majority at general elections on May 7, putting pressure on the government to implement more populist policies.

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