Waging War on e-Tolling and Labour Broking

Members of trade unions affiliated to the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), civil society and members of the public are taking to the streets against the tolling of Gauteng Freeways. Taking place on 7 March 2012, the countrywide protest will also be used to reiterate COSATU’s call for the complete banning of labour broking in the country.

COSATU has also repeatedly called for government to investigate the people who are responsible for steam-rolling these projects past public and stakeholder consultation, as well as all the relevant checks and balances. The call is supported by its affiliates including the South African Transport & Allied Workers’ Union (SATAWU), which urges its members to reject what it calls the, “Privatisation of our roads.” SATAWU is further urging its members to stop the e-tolling system, which it says will never cease or decrease once implemented. In addition, it describes the massive multi-billion rand expenditure on freeways as a wrong priority. SATAWU’s sentiment is somehow supported by the National Union of Mineworkers, which says that it is opposed to what it calls, “...the privatisation of our roads and to the legalisation of the blood-sucking practice of labour broking and will join the protest action en masse to demand that all these be abolished."

Apart from the COSATU affiliates, Public Servants Association (PSA) - the largest, politically non-affiliated, fully-representative union in the public service, supports the march on the grounds that labour broking violates worker's right to dignity by denying them the right to a decent job. In a press statement, PSA argues that the rationale for the e-tolling system is unclear as all motorists are paying fuel levy which could be spent in upgrading and maintaining public roads.

Late last month, the Democratic Alliance (DA), which is also participating in the march, threatened to obtain a court interdict to stop the e-tolling system. However, the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport MEC, Ismail Vadi, urged the DA to move ahead with the court action, warning that the exercise will prove futile. Vadi’s comments followed those of government spokesperson, Jimmy Manyi, who described the e-tolling as “a fact of life” and that “people must get used to it.”

Meanwhile, the Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) urged its members not to participate in the strike. FEDUSA says this stems from a decision by its National Executive Committee (NEC), because of the fact that the march is based on several issues, including road tolling, labour brokering and education issues in Western Cape. This convolution of issues might render some members unprotected, exposing them to possible disciplinary action.

No matter what happens after the protests, the biggest lesson the ANC-led government could learn is that consultation is key for any development project to be initiated, planned and implemented.

Below are some of the articles previously published on NGO Pulse in relation to the e-tolling and labour broking issue:

We invite NGO Pulse readers to share with us their views about the e-tolling system and labour broking and their implications to the working class in South Africa. Comments and articles should be e-mailed to editor@sangonet.org.za.

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