The newly established South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) has lost its first application for a strike – a general stayaway sought at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), which would have coincided with Wednesday’s national day of action planned by opposition parties.

The failure to secure a section 77 certificate means Saftu’s potential affiliates – speculated to be 21 unions representing 700 000 workers – won’t be taking part in Wednesday’s protest at the Union Buildings.

To secure a section 77 strike notice (under the Labour Relations Act), which would protect workers from disciplinary action while they demonstrated, Nedlac needs to declare that there is a dispute between the stakeholders and that a solution to the federation’s concerns cannot be found.

The application to Nedlac was heard by business, government and labour representatives on Friday afternoon as tens of thousands of people took to the streets, calling on President Jacob Zuma to step down.

The application was based on “issues of jobs, the economy and the national minimum wage; the sell-out (national minimum wage) deal signed by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and bosses. The crisis in the education sector as a whole also informed the application,” according to Saftu’s convener, Zwelinzima Vavi.

The application was dismissed because the newly established federation could not demonstrate that government and business representatives had failed to intervene in the concerned areas.

Vavi said: “There was a dispute about whether there is a dispute.