South Africa's railways to shed 27,000 jobs


South Africa's railways to shed 27,000 jobs

By Norm Dixon

Spoornet, South Africa's state-owned railways corporation, announced on July 8 that 27,000 workers' jobs would be eliminated over the next three years. Shocked trade unions, which campaigned for the ruling African National Congress to be returned to power in the June 2 general election with its slogan "A better life for all — sooner", condemned the move and vowed to launch mass action to defend jobs.

The ANC government is "restructuring" and "corporatising" the various divisions of the state transport department, Transnet, in preparation for its privatisation. Under the plan, 1700 locomotives will be withdrawn from service and the rail network reduced from its present 22,000 kilometres to less than 10,000 kilometres. The retrenchment of at least 18,000 workers will be necessary. Unions estimate that at least another 7500 jobs in associated industries will also be lost.

Unions representing Spoornet's 40,000 employees announced that workers would soon meet to plan mass action. On July 13, 300 Spoornet workers marched on Transnet's Johannesburg offices.

South African deputy president Jacob Zuma on July 10 defended the job losses. "This job loss is the outcome of [the ANC government's] own restructuring process and our greater integration into with the global economy ... Our priority is to attract foreign capital, increase our trade links and attract skilled people in order to invest, develop, and create jobs."