ANC: We must move beyond union interests
Relations between the ANC and its ally Cosatu will be tested in the coming weeks after the ruling party endorsed two proposals that the trade union federation has opposed in the past.
The ANC said yesterday it would push for education to be declared an essential service - a move that would ultimately ban teachers' unions from striking.
Briefing journalists in Johannesburg, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said the ANC and its government "will leave no stone unturned in making education an essential service".
He said the ANC was a governing party and had to consider more than trade union interests.
The South African Democratic Teachers' Union - which wants an urgent meeting with the ANC - says it is wrong to classify teaching as an essential service.
"The reality is that when teaching is interrupted due to strikes it does not endanger the life, personal safety or health of the pupils.
"If you disrupt education, you are not threatening a life," the union said.
While the ANC and Cosatu are headed for confrontation on education, they found common ground yesterday over the youth wage subsidy.
For almost three years Cosatu has challenged the proposed subsidy, which will give tax incentives to companies that employ young, inexperienced workers who would otherwise not find jobs because they are considered a high staff-turnover risk.
Cosatu has argued that existing jobs would be put at risk, with older workers being the most likely to suffer.
But Mantashe revealed that the union federation and the ANC were now on the same page about the subsidy, having reached agreement at a meeting yesterday morning.
"There will be no blood on the floor about this," Mantashe said.
He said the scheme would target young people, graduates and students in tertiary institutions who needed to complement formal study with practical work.
A deal on the wage subsidy was to be signed at the National Economic Development and Labour Council, Mantashe said.
In 2010, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced he had budgeted R5-billion over three years towards a youth wage subsidy.
Mantashe said the subsidy was not about the government giving money to the private sector, but about cost sharing.
"We are not discounting the fact of cost sharing, which is a category that will include one [form] or another of the youth unemployment subsidy.
"We are saying that any intervention that can ensure that young people get absorbed into the labour market [is one] we should all be committed to because it is a problem facing society today," he said
The proposal was initially shot down by Cosatu, the National Youth Development Agency and the ANC Youth League.
Cosatu has yet to provide a detailed response on why its leaders have decided the youth wage subsidy is now an acceptable plan.