South African unions protest over corruption, job losses, wages

JOHANNESBURG, Oct 7 (Reuters) - South Africa’s biggest trade union group COSATU urged members to stay away from work on Wednesday to protest about job losses, wage curbs and corruption cases.

COSATU, which says it has more than 1 million members, is normally an ally of the governing African National Congress (ANC) but has criticised the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The union federation said this week that the more than 2 million jobs lost in the second quarter was an indictment of the cabinet’s performance and accused policymakers of presiding over “flagrant theft of taxpayer funds” after a spate of scandals.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has said his government is finalising an economic recovery plan to stimulate a rebound in employment and has promised tough action to deal with those implicated in corruption.

His spokesman declined comment when contacted by Reuters about the union action.

COSATU is also angry that the government did not raise civil servants’ salaries in April, as promised in a three-year wage deal struck in 2018 that the government now says is unaffordable.

COSATU is organising motorcades, pickets and marches across South Africa’s nine provinces.

Union leader Zingiswa Losi will deliver a memorandum to government offices in the administrative capital Pretoria, COSATU said on its Twitter account.

It was not immediately clear how many COSATU members had heeded the call to down tools on Wednesday. COSATU’s affiliate unions represent workers in the public and private sectors, in professions like teaching, healthcare, the police and mining. (Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Andrew Cawthorne)