Unemployed and casual workers were better off under apartheid than now, said Cosatu’s general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi on Saturday.
He said inequality had widened in the past 13 years with a minority of capitalists and bureaucrats getting richer.
“Many of the millions who are unemployed, or whose jobs have been casualised, are even worse off than under apartheid. Around 20 million of our people are still mired in poverty. We still face many challenges and the task of transformation is far from complete,” he told the 20th anniversary celebrations of the South African Municipal Workers Union in Cape Town.
Vavi said the main reason workers’ wages had remained low during the democratic dispensation was privatisation and the Growth, Employment and Redistribution policy (Gear), espoused by President Thabo Mbeki in 1996.
He said Gear had led to the scandalous situation of a supposedly “booming” economy that left 40% of workers unemployed.
“The country’s economic policy, including the budget, is not based on the promises of the Constitution,” he said.
He said the union federation was striving to formalise the relationship with its partners through an “alliance pact”, which would oblige the government to discuss all new policies with its allies.
Earlier in the year Vavi clashed with Mbeki for saying the country’s economic growth was merely a government ploy to create hype and no different to nazi propaganda.