The Right 2 Work Conference Launch

Friday 14 December 2007

The Right 2 Work Conference Launch 12-15 June 2006 District Six Homecoming Center (Museum) Alternative Information Development Center 10th Year Anniversary Celebration Cape Town Overcoming Unemployment - Strategies for giving Effect to the R2W

‘Overcoming unemployment: Strategies for building the Right to Work (R2W) campaign’. This year AIDC is 10 years old and part of the conference was to celebrate their role in challenging capitalist globalisation and building alternatives to neo-liberalism. Despite a so-called ‘booming’ economy, unemployment remains 40%. As such, unemployment can be likened to another virus that is also destroying the lives of working class people as it eats away at the heart and soul of our communities and undermines people’s dignity. Little wonder then the very fabric our townships is being torn apart as the socio-economic damage wrought by neo-liberal inspired polices results in violent crime and domestic abuse.

However, unlike many conferences this was not to be an academic ‘talk-shop’ but a conference with a difference. The 50% of the participants and cultural performers who came from were the R2W unemployed activist from the R2W forums and all the participants were being invited to help shape the direction of the R2W campaign. Through a mixture of plenary, participatory commissions and sharing experiences with unemployed activists and comrades involved in popular resistance in South Africa and the global south, the objective was to come out of the conference with a ‘manifesto for action’. Draft for the Right to work campaign Activist from a diverse range of popular organisations and movements including the unemployed, workers, youth, students, women and researchers met in Cape Town to confront the deepening crisis of unemployment in South Africa.

In addition to HIV-AIDS virus, the mass unemployment virus is destroying our communities. More than 8 million people are without work, 70 % of which are youth and 60% are women. With such high levels of unemployment, those in work are under constant threat of retrenchments and worsening conditions of employment. Moreover, instead of creating decent work, our economy creates mostly low quality and low paid jobs, which people are forced to accept out of desperation.

This is a crisis of monumental proportions. It represents a huge waste of our society’s most important resource- its own people. Worsening poverty, crime, gangsterism, substance abuse, and domestic violence are all linked to the mass unemployment crisis.

The legacy of apartheid together with the free market approach, adopted since 1996, account for the exceptionally high unemployment rate of 40%. Rising mass unemployment is a feature of many economies that have followed a package of neo-liberal policies including restrictive fiscal and monetary policies, trade and financial liberalization, Privatisation and deregulation of labour markets.

The ‘right to work’ has to be a key aspect of any attempt to change our country’s current course and begin to restore the dignity of millions of our people. It is the basis for ensuring that people can enjoy a productive life and realise their full potential and diverse needs.

The ‘right to work’ needs to be recognized as a fundamental human right and guaranteed in our Bill of Rights. Government policies then would be accountable to the promotion and realization of full employment in our country.

To this end, we resolve to launch a campaign for the R2W that has as its aim the overcoming of unemployment and the guarantee of decent work and full employment.

The Right to Work demands As a first step, based on our rich discussions and those of our sister organisation in the popular movements, we seek to mobilize widely, especially the unemployed and workers to demand: • The introduction of an unemployment living allowance starting with a basic income grant. • 1 years guaranteed work at a living wage for I million workers in the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). • An end casualisation, labour flexibility and the use of labour brokers and put a moratorium on retrenchments. • Free essential services including free transport for unemployed workers so they can look for work. • The introduction of nutrition schemes in poor communities. • The development of a more effective skills development programme that includes guaranteed apprenticeships and leanerships to meet social needs. • Fundamental land and agrarian reform to ensure sustainable livelihoods. • Unfreeze all posts in the public sector. • An expansion of the public sector to provide decent basic services • The public sector be used to invest in labour intensive technology

The right to work also seeks to bring about complete changes in the current economic strategy and policy framework. South Africa needs an alternative strategy centred on human development to effectively overcome unemployment, poverty and inequalities in our country. Join the Right to Work Campaign We intend to use this document as a basis to popularize this campaign and to reach out to those individuals and organisations that are in broad agreement with its basic ideas and demands. We leave this conference inspired by the commitment to unity and to unite a wide range of forces in active struggle and fight back against unemployment and for the Right to Work. We commit ourselves to build a campaign and mobilize and take up local struggles. We call on all our brothers and sisters to come forward and join the Right to Work Campaign


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