COSATU commemorates Workers Day 2024 in Athlone

The Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi, says International Workers’ Day or May Day, symbolises the fight against fair employment in South Africa.

May 1 pays tribute to the historical struggles of workers and their trade unions for solidarity and fair employment standards. This year, the theme for Workers’ Day and month is “30 Years of Freedom”.

On this day, in December 1985, saw the formation of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu). The trade federation demanded that May Day to be recognised as a public holiday and renamed Workers’ Day was heeded by approximately 1.5 million workers. They were joined by thousands of school pupils, students, taxi drivers, hawkers, shopkeepers, domestic workers, and self-employed, and unemployed people. Despite many of these rallies being banned in advance by the Apartheid Government, they were held across the country, with the majority in the Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging area, now known as Gauteng. Since the inaugural democratic elections in 1994, Workers’ Day has been officially acknowledged and commemorated in South Africa. This holiday serves dual purposes: it is a celebration of workers’ rights and a poignant reminder of the pivotal role that trade unions, the Communist Party, and other labour organizations played in the struggle against Apartheid.

Nxesi called on South Africans to pay tribute to all the workers of South Africa, especially the frontline workers who continue to provide essential services even on this holiday.

‘’This includes doctors, nurses, other medical staff, members of the Police Services and the SA National Defence Force, as well as workers who provide other essential services, such as our farmers and farm workers, supermarket and chemist staff, staff of security companies, and all other workers who provide essential services during this time. We honour and salute you, our unsung heroes – the workers of South Africa! Your contributions are the backbone of our nation, and today, we celebrate you,’’ said Thulas Nxesi, Minister of Employment and Labour.

COSATU are leading National May Day celebrations at the Athlone Stadium. President Cyril Ramaphosa and COSATU President Zingiswa Losi will deliver the keynote address. Alliance partners – African National Congress, the South African Communist Party General Secretary Solly Mapaila and the South African National Civic Association President Richard Mkhungo, will deliver solidarity messages.

The International Worker's Day Celebrations are anchored under the Theme: "Building a strong and united COSATU in Mobilizing for the ANC electoral victory".

‘’It is a moment for workers and COSATU to put pressure on the state and employers to do more to pay workers a living wage, tackle unemployment, grow the economy and invest in public services. As we head towards the final stretch to the May 29th general elections, it is a rallying point to mobilize workers to come out in the millions on election day and return the ANC to office to continue our efforts to build a better life for all,’’ said Matthew Parks, Acting National Spokesperson & Parliamentary Coordinator.

The trade federation along with its alliances also led a march in the area in solidarity with Palestine.

COURTESY - X: @MKhalidSayed

Meanwhile, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) says the country made great strides with employment, but says workers are still faced with unfavourable working conditions.

‘’Whilst we commend the gains achieved for workers through various legislations, they are still subjected to unfavourable working conditions, low wages, casualisation and retrenchments. Employers are at times, deliberately ignoring legislation and undermine the gains workers have made,’’ said Mugwena Maluleke, SADTU General Secretary.

‘’As we celebrate this day, we are painfully aware of the millions of unemployed workers and the numbers continue to rise. In the basic education sector, we have thousands of vacant posts that have not been filled due to budget cuts. Teachers suffer the consequences of budget cuts as they teach overcrowded classrooms while unemployed teacher graduates languish at home. We want to see an end to austerity measures as they exacerbate unemployment levels,’’ he added.

Done By: Mitchum George


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