Cosatu keen to engage with govt on pension law changes | Fin24
 
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Cosatu keen to engage with govt on pension law changes

Mar 16 2016 09:28
Dane McDonald

Cape Town – The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) looks forward to engaging with government on social amendments to the Tax Laws Amendment Bill, the federation’s regional secretary Tony Ehrenreich said on Tuesday.

“We are committed to the process of dialogue with government in terms of social amendments to the bill,” he told Fin24.

Ehrenreich - together with a large contingent of Cosatu shop stewards and officials - filled the gallery of Parliament’s National Assembly to listen to the debate on the Tax Laws Amendment bill.

The bill was referred to the National Council of Provinces on Tuesday in the first step towards amending some provisions of the Taxation Laws Amendment Act, after an outcry from unions over new pension withdrawal rules.

In his address to Parliament, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan acknowledged worker representation in the gallery.

Gordhan said government prefers a consensus rather than an adversarial approach on the bill and that discussions should take place within the context of the broader social security reform paper, which is three months from finalisation.

READ: Gordhan: Govt prefers consensus approach to pension laws

According to the amendment to the tax bill, provident fund retirees would be allowed to take only one-third of their savings in cash and would have to use the remaining two-thirds to buy a pension income. They are currently entitled to the full amount.

In a statement earlier on Tuesday, the trade federation said it is unhappy with the law, which it believes dictates to workers how they should use their retirement funds.

“It is completely unacceptable for the government to try and prescribe to workers what to do with savings,” said Cosatu.

Cosatu has threatened pull their support of the ANC ahead of the local government elections this year if their demands on the bill are not met.

DA shadow minister of finance David Maynier criticised the ANC-led government for giving in to Cosatu’s demands.

“When Cosatu says jump... the ANC says how high,” he said amid heckling from the majority party.

Maynier made reference to Standing Committee of Finance chairperson Yunus Carrim’s apparent back-pedalling in the decision on the bill, saying “doing what is right and standing up to Cosatu is a rare thing”.

“Cosatu could not get what they wanted because what they wanted was bad for the workers and bad for people retiring and bad for SA,” he said.

According to Maynier, Cosatu’s threats of strike action led the government to reconsider the laws.

Ehrenreich said the DA has once again shown “its true colours and absolute disdain for organised labour”, while Gordhan said the opposition has “no empathy for workers and what they want”.

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