Do a Van Rooyen – Cosatu

Labour fed­er­a­tion wants Zuma to re­verse leg­is­la­tion that lim­its peo­ple from with­draw­ing their full pen­sions

CityPress - - News - AN­DISIWE MAKINANA news@city­ HLENGIWE NHLABATHI and SETUMO STONE news@city­

The agree­ment that ended the four-week strike in Par­lia­ment at the end of last year ap­pears to be show­ing cracks.

The Na­tional Education, Health and Al­lied Work­ers’ Union (Ne­hawu), which rep­re­sents white-col­lar work­ers in Par­lia­ment, has laid a com­plaint with the Com­mis­sion for Con­cil­i­a­tion, Me­di­a­tion and Ar­bi­tra­tion (CCMA) over Par­lia­ment’s fail­ure to pay per­for­mance bonuses and its uni­lat­eral re­vi­sion of em­ploy­ees’ as­sess­ment rat­ings.

How­ever, Par­lia­ment said yes­ter­day the CCMA ac­tion had been with­drawn while mat­ters were be­ing dis­cussed in­ter­nally with Ne­hawu. The union de­nied it had with­drawn its case.

“That is not true. We did not with­draw the case,”

If Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma could re­verse his de­ci­sion to ap­point Des van Rooyen as min­is­ter of fi­nance af­ter four days, there is noth­ing pre­vent­ing him from re­vers­ing the new re­tire­ment tax leg­is­la­tion. This is the view of trade union fed­er­a­tion Cosatu, which wants Zuma to scrap the Tax­a­tion Laws Amend­ment Act he signed on Christ­mas Eve.

The law puts a cap on how much of an em­ployee’s prov­i­dent fund or pen­sion may be with­drawn when a per­son leaves a job. It is in­tended to force work­ers to save for their re­tire­ment and not with­draw sav­ings to pay off debts or ful­fil short-term needs.

Trade unions ar­gue it amounts to govern­ment babysit­ting cit­i­zens’ fi­nan­cial man­age­ment, and they have sternly op­posed it dur­ing its pas­sage through Par­lia­ment and the con­sen­susseek­ing body be­tween govern­ment, labour, busi­ness and civil so­ci­ety, Ned­lac.

The unions want such changes to be ac­com­pa­nied by a com­pre­hen­sive re­form of the so­cial se­cu­rity sys­tem. Cosatu and the Na­tional Union of Met­al­work­ers of SA are gear­ing up for a strike to op­pose the leg­is­la­tion. Cosatu has even threat­ened to with­hold sup­port for the ANC in up­com­ing lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions if the law is not scrapped.

Cosatu pres­i­dent Sdumo Dlamini said Zuma – who did a turn­about in De­cem­ber af­ter his de­ci­sion to axe Nh­lanhla Nene as fi­nance min­is­ter and re­place him with Van Rooyen caused havoc on the mar­kets – should change his mind on the tax-law mat­ter.

“Well, it has hap­pened be­fore. There has been a de­ci­sion to ap­point a com­rade to be a min­is­ter, and that per­son was with­drawn af­ter there was an out­cry. We think the ANC is a lis­ten­ing party; they should be lis­ten­ing to this one, too, so that we do not al­low our­selves into a more se­ri­ous catas­tro­phe,” he said.

Dlamini said Cosatu would not back down and Zuma would have to lis­ten to the fed­er­a­tion’s pleas.

“He has signed a law in which we say Ned­lac has been un­der­mined. We have put that clearly on record,” said Dlamini.

The Cosatu leader’s state­ments are be­ing seen as dare to Zuma, who finds him­self in a pre­car­i­ous po­si­tion af­ter the De­cem­ber Cab­i­net reshuf­fle; the pres­i­dent may have to avoid be­ing seen as weak.

Trea­sury warned this week that if govern­ment bowed to union de­mands for the re­peal of the new tax leg­is­la­tion, it would dis­rupt bud­get­ing and ex­pen­di­ture plans.

Cosatu lead­ers have pub­licly re­buked Trea­sury, ac­cus­ing it of smug­gling the law through Par­lia­ment with­out proper con­sul­ta­tion with all stake­hold­ers at Ned­lac. It said the law was based on in­put from “clue­less for­eign con­sul­tants” and would only ben­e­fit the govern­ment and fund man­agers.

On Fri­day, Trea­sury stood firm, say­ing it had al­ready made con­ces­sions to the trade unions. It said it had dealt with Cosatu’s con­cerns when they were raised in Par­lia­ment’s stand­ing com­mit­tee on fi­nance last year and had gone as far as de­lay­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion date from March 2015 to March 2016.

They had also raised the thresh­old of those af­fected by the new law from R75 000 to R247 000, mean­ing low in­come earn­ers would still be able to cash in their sav­ings. Govern­ment had also built in a two-year-re­view mech­a­nism, which would en­able an as­sess­ment and pos­si­ble al­ter­ations af­ter 24 months.

Trea­sury de­nied ram­ming the law through and said proper pro­cesses had been fol­lowed.

“It was up to Par­lia­ment to amend any law,” said a Trea­sury spokesper­son.

City Press has learnt that re­la­tions be­tween Cosatu and Trea­sury have bro­ken down to the ex­tent that the ANC is now hav­ing to play the role of me­di­a­tor.

Party of­fi­cials met Cosatu lead­ers on Mon­day af­ter a week of con­flict be­tween the fed­er­a­tion and govern­ment. The bi­lat­eral meet­ing on Mon­day be­tween the ANC and Cosatu reached no con­crete so­lu­tions, aside from a com­mit­ment that the ANC would en­gage with Trea­sury, and fur­ther dis­cus­sions would take place af­ter this week’s ANC na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee lek­gotla.

Dlamini said Mon­day’s meet­ing failed to re­solve any­thing and it was clear that re­la­tions in the al­liance were strained as a re­sult of the dis­pute.

Sdumo Dlamini

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