The workers and unemployed of the Eastern Cape met in Gqebera on 17-19 November 2023 recognising and understanding that we are part of the anti-capitalist and anti-xenophobic international working class, rejecting the exploitation and subjugation of women and the destruction of the environment. To address the unemployment and austerity crisis facing South Africa, we set out to build unity in our fight against capitalism through the experiences of the working class, as workers and the unemployed, the labour force and the reserve army of labour.
Comrades from the Inyanda Land Movement, COSATU and SAFTU unions and the Assembly of the Unemployed were in attendance under the banner of the Cry of the Xcluded to develop a program of solidarity for trade unions and working-class communities to advance each other’s struggles as a unified fight. It is the position of this gathering that we must not allow capitalism to dictate our struggle because we understand capitalism divides workers, employed and unemployed.
The government is failing to provide basic services while working-class people are increasingly unable to make ends meet. Workers are facing retrenchments in a jobs bloodbath sweeping South Africa. How do we respond? Under capitalism, the most obvious response is privatization. This is the false idea that you can create jobs through private investment and let the private sector take over where the government is failing. We know that this promise is a false promise.
We are saying as the working class that we must develop our own response to the situation and this means that we must struggle increasingly to take ownership and control of the work and the system of production, the ownership and distribution of wealth and income. We came together as trade unions, the unemployed and community organisations to understand how we can together facilitate community programs to confront poverty and hunger. We are working together to understand how to mobilise, organise and educate in both the workplaces where we are organised as trade unions and in the communities of the working class. We agreed that we should learn from each other. As the unemployed in working-class communities, we are working with trade unions to build a stronger relationship and to stand together in struggle. Together, as the South African working class, we also resolved to understand how our struggle links with others fighting capitalism around the world. This is why in our discussions we decided we must develop concrete campaigns for solidarity with our friends in Palestine, where they face the onslaught of global capitalism at its sharpest and which deepens the political and economic basis of their oppression.
We came together because we are all comrades who agree on the issues of murderous austerity, poverty, and unemployment: the pillars of neoliberal capitalism in South Africa. What we build must be struggled for through mobilization, organization, and education.
Here are some of our demands:
- Government must unfreeze public sector posts and create new ones to meet the requirements of our society fully
- Community Health Care Workers and all vulnerable, precarious and casualised workers such as taxi drivers, farm workers and EPWP workers must be formalized and employed permanently with a decent wage.
- Abolish the privatization of public services
- Stop Retrenchments both in the public and private sector
- Age must not be used as an excuse to exclude people from job opportunities
- A Basic Income Grant of R1500
- Land Justice together with support for rural development, small-scale and cooperative development
- Climate Jobs with the constitutional right to work
- Stop drilling and oil extraction from our seas
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