Several of the country’s biggest trade unions have signed an agreement in support of a boycott campaign against local retailer Woolworths, demanding the company severe trade links with all Israeli affiliates until the Zionist state has complied with international law in its handling of the Palestinian population. The support is in line with an on-going Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions South Africa (BDS SA) consumer boycott campaign against Woolworths in relation to the retailer’s refusal to remove Israeli produce from its stores.
The SA Democratic Teachers’ Unions (Sadtu) head of secretariat, Xolani Fakude said the position was nothing new, and the unions aim would be to lobby fellow unions to not let their member’s monies, in the form of Unemployment Insurance (UIF) pension funds, be used to support what was effectively an Apartheid state.
While the unions are directing their initial focus towards Woolworths, the aim is to broaden the stance towards all South African companies with Israeli trade links.
“We are speaking here of a principle, and Sadtu is saying that it is not just about Woolworths. When you stick with Woolworths you are just catching a small fish. We are saying that we do not want anything that will align public service workers of this country with the Apartheid state of Israel,” he declared.
Fakude said Sadtu would approach the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) to query how its members’ UIF funds were being used, and would warn against having any finances benefit Woolworths, be it directly or indirectly. The union has also threatened to flex is muscle within the PIC to have it divest from the popular retailer. The PIC stands as one of Woolworths’ biggest institutional shareholders, holding a 16.4% stake within the company.
“Where we come from as a nation was due to the fact that we had international solidarity. We are saying that it cannot just so happen that when the people of Palestine are faced with this onslaught against their very livelihood we as South Africans wait on the side-lines,” he stressed.
“We want to bring some element of venom into our call as a public sector union, to say that you can’t use our money to support what we are against.”
Other unions to have signed the agreement include The Police and Prison Civil Rights Union (Popcru), Communication Workers’ Union (CWU), Education and Health Workers’ Union (Nehawu), Liberated Metalworkers Union of South Africa (Limusa), and the South Africa Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers’ Union (Saccawu).
Sadtu has expressed confidence the number of unions in support of the boycott will soon grow. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)