Amandla! Colloquium 2012 – South Africa’s low-wage regime

by Dec 4, 2012All Articles

amandla-colloquium-2012After the Marikana massacre and the revolt of workers in the agricultural sector, it has become clear that we must look beyond the ANC’s conference in December to find a sustained and sustainable socio-economic response to the crises engulfing South Africa. The Amandla! 2012 colloquium brought together trade unionists, movement activists, social researchers, activist-scholars and non-governmental organisations to think about and deliberate on the political economy and ecology issues of our time.

South Africa’s extreme levels of inequality and environmental problems require wage-led and sustainable development, not profit-led growth. This was the overwhelming idea coming out of the colloquium, held at the foothills of the mineral-rich valleys of the Rustenberg platinum belt. Participants commented:

On the workings of South Africa’s low-wage regime:

This session was very good as it helped us to focus our thoughts on the collective bargaining environment. (Chabeli Seboholi, National Union of Mineworkers)

On space for a re-imagining of the big social and economic questions:

There has never been a better time for intellectual re-imagining. I think the initiative (coming from the colloquium) to focus our minds on a growthpath that benefits South Africa is a necessary one. Wage-led growth is a basic element of real economic growth. (Radhika Desai, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, presenter on the case for wage-led growth)

On trade union readiness to take on labour brokers:

Unions are not prepared at this stage and have failed to adapt in creating news ways to overcome the bureaucratic distortions to organise precarious work. (Niall Reddy, independent researcher, presenter on labour brokers)

On challenges to organising communities:

It is always a challenge to convince our communities, especially the youth. They are not interested always in knowing about the rights that are theirs, and that they can fight for it. They raise their hands (in agreement) but they ignore the messages. Young people don’t want to be involved and they say that since 1994, we have voted, but everything is still the same. (Lebo Podile, Democratic Left Front, Mpumalanga)

On the benefit of the colloquium:

Almost all the sessions were of critical importance. Unfortunately we have them only once a year. We need to replicate the conference in other regions and provinces and target community and union leaders. (Matthews Hlabane, Southern Africa Green Revolution Council, Democratic Left Front, Mpumalanga)

On wagebargaining:

There isn’t a science to wage bargaining. What do we need?…that’s your answer. (Gavin Hartford, labour journalist and presenter)

On BRICS (Brazil, India, China, South Africa):

BRICS is a fake power block – talking left, but walking right. (Patrick Bond, Centre for Civil Society)

On a minimum wage:

Unless we get national consensus on a minimum wage to increase demand and consumption at the lowest level, we won’t achieve anything. But we can’t leave it at the level of individual industrial sectors. Minimum wages must be part of the macro-economic policy. (Jane Barrett, trade unionist)

On the critical moments of our time:

It’s not Vavi (COSATU General Secretary), nor the trade union movement, or even the ANC. It’s greater social forces at play. (Brian Ashley, Alternative Information Development Centre)

click here to view the photo gallery of the Amandla! Colloquium 2012

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