The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) wishes its federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), a successful Collective Bargaining, Organising and Campaigns Conference which will take place from the 11th until the 13th November 2020.

The conference takes place against a backdrop of a vicious and relentless onslaught on collective bargaining by government and the public sector. Employers are going out of their way to reverse the hard won gains of workers. The onslaught which is led by our democratically elected government is hell-bent on undermining collective bargaining which did not come on a silver platter but through the blood and sweat of workers. Furthermore, the conference takes place at the time when a huge debate is raging on in relation to the size of the public service and Treasury’s announcement to freeze workers’ salaries for the next four years including cutting down the public service wage bill because it is regarded as excessive and as “a major driver of the fiscal deficit”.

Currently, our government is reneging on implementing the last leg of the 2018 wage agreement and this has brought too much suffering and anguish for our members and workers. Government has proven beyond reasonable doubt that it does not care about the people who ensures that there is service delivery especially in rural and poor areas of our country. Most of these heroes and heroines are at the forefront of the ghastly fight against the novel coronavirus. Furthermore, we have started to observe other employers who are beginning to dig in their heels in implementing binding collective bargaining agreements because they are aware of what our government is doing to public servants. The conference should discuss and adopt a concrete plan on how we must defend collective bargaining and also defend our members and workers against exploitative employers.

While government was underprepared to deal with the pandemic, our members and workers while faced with adversity continued to serve with dedication and commitment. Our uncaring government even refused to give frontline workers a danger allowance or a moral incentive for gallantly fighting the invisible enemy. Moreover, the outbreak of COVID-19 revealed the horrible working conditions our members and workers are subjected to. This necessitate the intensification of our struggle for improved working conditions. As unions, we have to redouble our efforts in fighting for the provision of adequate Personal Protective Equipment [PPEs], compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety [OHS] Act, including stopping employers who compel workers to work in unsafe and dilapidated buildings.

The outbreak of the coronavirus has led to many employers using it to get rid of workers or to cut salaries. Workers must be protected against employers who see this as another opportunity to maximise their accumulation of profits at the expense of workers. We hope that the conference will discuss in details how we can avoid a job bloodbath and the exploitation of workers by greedy employers.

The conference will also discuss the impeding job losses because of the introduction of automation and mechanisation. Many employers are replacing workers with machines and robots and this is robbing many families of their sources of income. Emerging from the conference on the 13th we should be armed with resolutions which will help us to save as many jobs as possible as the capitalists are always thinking of creative ways of making more profits while relegating workers to a life of poverty.

As NEHAWU, we have prepared thoroughly for our participation in this platform and our entry point will be about the defence of collective bargaining in the country and internationally. We hope the conference will be characterized by robust debates on how to rebuild COSATU into a fighting federation and to ensure that it continues to champion the interests of workers at all material times.

Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968; December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969; Khaya Xaba (NEHAWU National Spokesperson) at 082 455 2500 or email: