The Congress of South African Trade Unions held a scheduled meeting of its Central Executive Committee from 25-27 February 2013, attended by its National Office Bearers and leaders of its 20 affiliated unions and provincial structures.
The main focus was on the State of COSATU and Key Organisational Challenges in 2013. The following items were discussed:
Building unity and cohesion of COSATU
The November 2012 CEC mandated the COSATU Affiliated unions’ Presidents and General Secretary, together the COSATU NOBs, to meet on how the federation can improve on its current levels of unity and cohesion following the 11th National Congress which was a demonstration of unity which had however experienced some levels of discomfort.
The CEC had a frank and robust debate based on the report tabled in the meeting of COSATU affiliated unions’ Presidents and General Secretaries. The CEC mandated this body to continue the discussions and to bring in independent persons to facilitate further discussions that are necessary to address all issues raised in the meeting.
There is however no truth to the suggestions that the COSATU General Secretary is under investigation for financial impropriety or any other reason. The CEC strongly condemned the factional leaking of internal debates which get twisted in the media.
Building on our strengths and dealing with our weaknesses
The CEC made an assessment of progress in implementing the 16 October and November 2012 CEC programme for organisational renewal, which sought to combat social distance between leaders and members by entrenching deeper forms of accountability and worker control. It aimed to ensure that we remain a campaigning mobilising organisation and end divisive and undemocratic conduct in our unions, which attempts to undermine worker unity, or create splinter unions.
It further sought to build strong worker-controlled unions, focused on issues of concern to our members, at workplace, socio-economic and political levels, and to organise the unorganised, particularly farm workers and other vulnerable and super-exploited workers, and bring all workers under the umbrella of the Federation.
We have launched a listening campaign and identified key concerns by convening workers’ forums across the country, and a review of our organisational culture and democratic processes, including election and reporting processes. It aims to revive our COSATU shop stewards locals and improve training and education to reinvigorate the movement through developing a new culture amongst shop stewards, organisers and leaders.
The meeting congratulated SACTWU on its R1 million donation to FAWU to help them to recruit and service farm workers and urged other affiliates to follow their example and do more to help to organise all vulnerable workers.
A particular problem is the proliferation of unions, of which there are now 193 registered in South Africa, 117 of which are not affiliated to any Federation. There are 45 general unions, and multiple unions in retail, hospitality, cleaning, security, construction, food/fishing, and transport. This phenomenon is weakening worker power, unity and solidarity.
The CEC was happy to note that our campaign in defence of NUM and SATAWU is beginning to bear fruit. Thousands of mineworkers who were misled and/or pressured to resign from the union that has fought for their dignity are returning to the union in droves. The membership of SATAWU has increased from 160 000 to 193 000 due to the work the union and COSATU has embarked upon.
The CEC condemned in the strongest terms possible management of all three big platinum companies – Implats, Amplats and Lonmin – who are manipulating the membership verification process and employing the age-old tactic of divide-and-rule, to the benefit of AMCU.
Management hypocritically, and in most unprincipled way, have sought to meet all demands of AMCU to cancel stop order facilities of the NUM, and used the threat of retrenchment to any worker who insist on exercising freedom of association by continuing to be a member of union, closed NUM offices, etc.
Management apparently believe this is the only way to stop unprotected strikes that have engulfed the platinum sector. The actions of management constitute the worst forms of union bashing. COSATU has already started to challenge these actions and will continue to do so.
Notwithstanding the challenge of rival and breakaway unions, when devising our recruitment and organising strategies we need to remember that two out of three workers remain unorganised by any union.
Rape and violence against women
The CEC agreed that we need to do far more to combat the shocking level of rape, assault and murder of women and children. The horrific rape and murder of 17-year-old Anene Booysen in Bredasdorp on 3 February 2013 turned the spotlight on to a much wider and deeper problem, graphically highlighted by the grim statistics.
We read almost daily of rapes and assaults on infants and 97-year-old grannies, and women and children of all ages in between.
It was agreed to organise marches on 8 March – International Women’s Day – and picket the courts where those accused of such crimes are appearing. COSATU North West and Free State provinces will march against this scourge on 1st March.
The CEC also resolved to demand the transformation of the whole judicial system. The Oscar Pistorius bail hearing has shown the world that South Africa’s legal system caters only for the very rich. If you can hire advocates who charge thousands of rand an hour and put up R1 million rand for bail you can soon be back at home.
COSATU shall take up a campaign to ensure that the poor have access to justice system. The current amounts demanded by lawyers and advocates are way above the heads of workers and the poor. This lies behind deepening levels of inaccessibility of justice to millions.
If you are a poor victim of violent crime, the police and the courts drag their feet and so often fail to secure convictions that many rape victims do not even bother to report the offence. This must change; justice is a basic constitutional right, not a privilege for the wealthy.
COSATU calls for the strengthening of our current judiciary system in order to successfully convict all the perpetrators, starting with provision of female police in all our police stations, rape kits to be readily available in our hospitals and police stations, continuous training of our doctors and nurses on forensic medicine, quick establishment and proper resourcing our special rape courts and make sure trauma centres are well equipped and available in all our hospitals. The CEC is equally worried about the backlog on DNA results, which is making it impossible to successfully prosecute rape perpetrators. We call upon the department of health to urgently address this problem.
Collective Bargaining and Organising and Campaigns Conference
Plans were finalised for the Collective Bargaining and Organising and Campaigns Conference to be held from 12-15 March 2013 at the Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre, Boksburg. This conference is at the centre of our efforts to revive the federation by ensuring that we address issues members have demanded that they should be address – bread and butter issues. The conference will focus on one critical area of what we dubbed the second phase for radical economic transformation – incomes policy. It will focus on:
Reviving our organisational culture, building solidarity and dealing with emerging challenges including social distance between leaders, shop stewards and members etc.
The challenge of recruiting and organising vulnerable workers, like the Western Cape farm worker experience
The role of shop stewards and organisers in organising and servicing members
History of the Living Wage Campaign and its relevance today in the campaign against poverty and inequality
Overview of collective bargaining achievements and challenges (drawing on surveys as well as Naledi and LRS research, and elements of the CEC Paper)
Wages and profits: Debating the affordability of wage increases and the declining wage share of workers
Radically raising low pay as a tool for poverty alleviation and as a macro-economic tool for economic growth and job creation – the argument for a National Minimum Wage
A practical route to Decent Work for all – establishing measureable standards of “decency” as a strategy for triggering organising and collective bargaining for vulnerable workers
Taking forward the Section 77 Notice on economic transformation.
COSATU remains totally opposed to suggestions that the current youth unemployment crisis in South Africa could be addressed through the introduction of the Youth Wage Subsidy. COSATU reiterates its concern that youth unemployment constitutes a crisis that it has dubbed a ticking time bomb that must be addressed without further delay through structural interventions that will change the current growth path model that reproduces the triple crisis of poverty, unemployment and inequalities.
COSATU has welcomed President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address wherein he assured that this programme will not be unilaterally imposed and that instead a comprehensive response is being negotiated through NEDLAC.
COSATU remains totally opposed to the drive to the commodification of inner city highways. We remain committed to a campaign to mobilise our members and community at large to resist this with everything in our power.
COSATU has reiterated its concern that this major issue of importance to workers has not been finalised now on the fourth year of the current term of administration. The amendments to the various pieces of labour relations are stalling in parliament many months after the conclusion of the public hearings in parliament. This is despite the agreement we reached with the leadership of the ANC in April 2012. The only area of disagreement remains that COSATU wants a total ban of labour brokers while the ANC was happy with the regulation framework and envisaged that especially on the first six months of employment the labour brokers will still have some role to play.
COSATU remains committed to take up campaigns for a total ban of the labour brokers. This demand for the total ban of labour brokers forms part of the current mobilisation to engineer a radical economic transformation in the second phase of our national democratic revolution.
The CEC reaffirmed its full support for the African National Congress in the 2014 national and provincial elections. The federation is already heavily involved in the Alliance election organising teams to ensure that the ANC receives another decisive mandate from electorate to continue with the transformation of our society. COSATU Deputy President comrade Tyotyo James has been appointed to set up a leadership structure and infrastructure to drive our campaign.
COSATU will continue to pursue a meeting with the leadership of the ANC to ensure an agreement is reached on what should constitute a radical economic transformation in the second phase of our revolution. This includes addressing many other serious concerns of the Federation and the Alliance as a whole such as state of our education, health care and rate of corruption.
Analysis of Mangaung Conference and the National Development Plan
A document analysing the Mangaung Conference resolutions and the National Development Plan was placed before the CEC and would be referred to the affiliates and provinces for full discussion and further debated at a future CEC. A discussion document facilitates a discussion and does not mean it’s a COSATU policy until it has been adopted by the structures of the federation.
A Section 77 Notice has been submitted to Nedlac to take forward the programme of action to drive the radical economic shift, in line with the demands of the Freedom Charter, which was agreed at the 11th National Congress. It calls for action to implement what COSATU has dubbed Seizing the Lula Moment and the ANC has called the 2nd Phase of the Transition – which is actually the same thing.
It was agreed that protest action would need to focus on specific parts of the programme, and this will be further discussed at the Collective Bargaining and Organising and Campaigns Conference. The meeting of the Affiliated unions Presidents and General Secretaries referred to above has been charged with a responsibility to develop clear strategies and tactics to ensure that the campaign receives a backing of our member and succeeds in its objectives.
It was agreed to arrange a meeting with the ANC and the Alliance to discuss both these campaigns and seek common ground.
The campaign against Eskom’s proposed five-year 16% per year tariff increases is in full swing, with pickets and interventions at Nersa hearings by affiliates and provinces. If Nersa decides to go against the wishes of society, COSATU will ensure that the campaign is properly coordinated to force them to reverse the decision that will be so catastrophic to jobs and economic growth. Unions are particularly worried at the number of jobs which could be lost if the increases go ahead. The CEC is happy with the stance taken by the ANC and many Cabinet Ministers in opposition to the Eskom application to Nersa. It was agreed to have a meeting with the ANC after the Nersa decision has been made.
Protection of State Information Bill
The CEC noted that the POSIB was much improved by the National Council of Provinces following talks between COSATU and the ANC. It is now to go back to the National Assembly and we shall seek a further meeting with the ANC to agree that there are still areas where the Bill needs to be improved to prevent whistleblowers who expose corruption from being criminalised for revealing ‘secret’ information
May Day 2013
The CEC approved a total of 24 May Day rallies across the country. The main national May Day rally will be held his year in the Northern Cape in memory of the workers who lost their lives ten years ago on their way from Kimberley to a May Day rally in QwaQwa in 2003. The theme is being finalised and full details will be forwarded to the media soon
Next Month South Africa will host the BRICS Summit in Durban from, which will include a first dialogue between BRICS Leaders and African heads of state and governments from the eight Regional Economic Communities and the NEPAD Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative.
There will also be a dialogue with the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, on the issue of infrastructure funding which the AU has tasked President Jacob Zuma to play a leading role in implementing.
We have raised our concerns that labour is not a participant in the Summit and yet business has an official delegation. Labour Federations from affected countries have therefore planned a meeting on the sidelines of the Summit on 23-25 March to express our concerns on fundamental issues. The proposed themes are:
a) Trade Agreements between BRICS (including dumping etc.)
b) Formalisation of a co-ordination structure of the BRICS Trade Union Forum and where shall it be hosted.
c) Approach to development
d) Our approach to the proposed BRICS development bank
e) Defending and advancing our key priorities; education, health, sectoral issues, building a developmental state, disciplining multinational companies, etc.
f) Decent work and job creation agenda
g) Transformation of multilateralism and global governance
h) Transformation of the international trade union movement
Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)
Congress of South African Trade Unions
110 Jorissen Cnr Simmonds Street