COSATU Central Executive Statement -20 May 2021

The Congress of South African Trade Unions held a successful Central Executive Committee meeting from 17-19 May 2021 to discuss a number of issues affecting the workers, in particular, and the working class in general. The meeting was attended by the COSATU National Office Bearers, provincial leaders, and representatives of the 18 affiliated unions.

The meeting resolved that our reading of the global balance of forces as articulated by the last meeting remains valid in many respects for the current period. Globally the COVID-19 inspired capitalist crisis has driven down standards of living and the livelihoods of millions of people throughout the world.

Domestically, economic stagnation persists, unemployment is still stubbornly high, and wages remain depressed. The everchanging and destabilising global economy continues to adversely impact the local economy.

The CEC noted the political developments regarding both processes and content of the political situation in the country. The issues of Palestine and the crisis of imperialism, apartheid and colonial occupation are ever more imperative, for all humanity and all of us.

Organisational –The CEC reflected on our ongoing work to build a strong trade union movement that excels on workplace issues and defend members in the face of attacks by employers.

The meeting concluded that we have made progress in many areas and that we should not be self-critical to the point where we ignore our strengths and achievements. We remain the most vibrant, democratic, and worker-controlled organisation that is deeply engaged on priority policy issues to ensure employment creation and strengthen social protection.

Despite this, the CEC noted that there is a lot that needs to be done to protect collective bargaining, give better services to workers and build stronger unions. The meeting reiterated its previous position for the intensification of the recruitment campaign. Although COSATU has recruited more than hundred thousand members last year, we have been unable to reach the two-million membership mark.

The unstable economic situation offers both challenges and opportunities for the labour movement and we need to adapt to survive.

The meeting resolved that we need not only focus on collective bargaining and fighting retrenchments but also, we need to improve on skills development and employment equity, amongst others. For this to be achieved, our unions need to improve on organisational discipline, internal democracy, and worker control. They need to manage better their union finances and offer full support to shop stewards and staff to improve membership service.

Building workers’ unity –The CEC acknowledged the ongoing working cooperation with federations inside and outside of NEDLAC. The Federation plans to aggressively drive the unity process by engaging in systematic and purposeful engagements and also pushing for unity in action.

The Federation offers its full support to the public service unions and hopes that the ongoing negotiations will result in a settlement to avert a possible strike. But unions should continue to mobilise for any eventuality and remain battle ready.

The meeting called on the unions in the Public Service and in the private sector to increase their cooperation and partnerships, and not allow narrow disagreements and tactical differences to divide them. COSATU was founded on the principles of unity and solidarity of all workers. No union or federation can take forward the current struggles alone, we all need to co-ordinate, and formulate relations with other workers in South Africa and around the world.

Collective Bargaining

On SAMWU – the meeting expressed its support for SAMWU on the on-going negotiations, particularly in the Water Sector. We welcome a facilitated process as a step forward. But workers should not let up, they must stand firm and unite to fight for their rights, we are also calling on all municipalities that dismissed workers to reinstate them immediately.

On SACCAWU – The CEC notes the work done by SACCAWU to mobilise and force Massmart to a negotiating table. We denounce the continued intransigence regarding both retrenchments and worker’s salaries. COSATU is ready to work with all its unions to support SACCAWU to defend workers.

On NUM –We offer our total support to the NUM that is fighting with intransigent employers in the Mining sector, where companies are resisting Collective Bargaining efforts. This is the reason why the Federation will continue with its Section 77 Notice in defence of Collective Bargaining in both the private and the public sector.

On SACTWU – We salute SACTWU’s exemplary and commendable work on the Vaccination agreement in the Textile and Clothing sector, which was historic. We support the union in its efforts to hold accountable problematic employers who are beginning to retreat/renege on the signed agreements in the footwear and the tanning sector. Collective bargaining is not an option and non-negotiable.

On non-trading holidays-We note the ANC NEC’s position on non-trading holidays, we expect the government to expedite the process of passing a law that will ensure that Freedom Day, May Day, and Election Day are declared no-trading holidays. This is important because workers continue to be victimised and punished for participating in these important historical holidays.

Vaccination-The Federation notes the commencement of Phase 2 vaccination focusing on people over 60 years of age. We hope that government will iron out the bureaucratic inadequacies that have led to many delays in the vaccination proccess, since the beginning of the year.

Reaching the 67% population immunity level is critical to saving lives and livelihoods.  Government’s excuses are unacceptable and unjustifiable. We expect government to ensure that all public and private vaccination sites are fully operational and have sufficient supplies.  They need to be accessible, especially in rural areas and should be open seven days a week. 

The Federation will not allow any employer to dismiss any worker who chooses to exercise their constitutional right to freedom of choice and opts out of the vaccination process. While we support the vaccine rollout plan, healthcare consent is a pillar of medical ethics and medical treatment.

A correct balance is needed between protecting the rights of individual workers from possible dismissal and also avoiding workplaces becoming COVID hotspots or super spreaders.

Education and persuasion are the only ways to convince the public to embrace the vaccine not the threat of dismissal.  We urge all workers to ensure that they and their elderly relatives register to receive the vaccines.  The vaccines are critical in the battle against Covid-19.  All South Africans must continue to wear masks, sanitise and socially distance. 

Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan-The Federation is worried about the slow pace that government and business are moving to implement their commitments under the Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan. We have a 40% unemployment rate, private sector companies are closing, and State-Owned Enterprises are imploding. Decisive action is needed to arrest this situation.

The law enforcement agencies need to pull up their socks in the fight against corruption, and the private sector needs to stop making excuses and employing delaying tactics when it comes local procurement.  COSATU is working with social partners to ensure the implementation of the Eskom Social Compact.  The Federation is also working to ensure that unions, economic sectors, pension and investments funds all become active and decisive champions of local procurement. We plan to submit monthly reports on this at Nedlac to prove this commitment.

Convention 190-The Federationaffirms further the urgency of the ratification of the C190 to create solid for basis for women and vulnerable groups to feel and be safe, as well as deal a blow to patriarchy and sexism in the workplace and our society.


The Alliance-Qualitatively, there has been no significant shift in the workings of the Alliance. The CEC reiterated its posture that the Federation continues to be guided by the Eighth National Congress resolution that said, “The Alliance, as the political centre, must agree on policies and devise a strategy and structures to ensure that political leaders and government departments implement agreed policies.”

Lamentably, there are still those who do not share this view inside the ANC and as a result the Alliance has not worked close to what we demand of it. The fate and the future of the Alliance is dependent on its political reconfiguration and we shall continue to push for the attainment of this goal. We look forward to the Alliance Summit with the hope that it will help us deal with the number of outstanding issues that are critical to the NDR, the alliance and the working class in particular.

Political School-The CEC resolved to convene a Political School to properly engage with the real substantive, ideological and political matters in an appropriate forum to qualitatively prepare for the Central Committee (CC), which will include the Mid-Term Vision, and to sharpen all our key strategic documents towards the CC.

The Political School will also help us grapple with the changing political realities and allow us to reflect on whether there is a need to review the basic tenets of our political strategy.

This is more important because the political environment is ever-changing. Amongst the most urgent challenges is the state’s firm adoption of contractionary fiscal policies, decision to abandon the pursuit of a developmental state, refusal to completely retreat from its privatisation programme and adopt a genuinely transformatory developmental strategy.

This is troubling because the 2019 ANC Elections Manifesto talked more about the centrality of the state interventions to restructure the economy. A political school will allow us to engage on tactics and programs that will help us improve our ability to politically mobilise in order to defend our interests, as workers. This will also offer us an opportunity to debate, characterise and interpret the state’s policy shifts and formulate our political response.

On the ANC-The CEC noted and debated the developments inside the ANC, regarding the step-aside rule. COSATU respects the ANC internal processes and reaffirms its support for the decisions adopted by the ANC NEC. The Federation has been consistent in its call for a more assertive ANC NEC in dealing with political ill-discipline and corruption in the organisation and in government. This is what the majority of workers and members want.

We reiterate our support for the democratic institutions and denounce any attempts to undermine and attack them in any way. Despite its obvious challenges, the ANC remains a powerful force that workers of this country have invested a lot in building, therefore, we will continue to defend it from those who are prepared to divide and weaken it to try and save themselves.

We unwaveringly support all efforts to pushback against those who are hell-bent on using the organisation as an instrument of individual accumulation, whether via the state or through business connections. The principal task of the working class remains to recapture the ANC as a progressive and radical liberation movement. We have bottomless contempt for corruption and factionalism, and we remain a principled ally of the ANC.

The CEC further emphasised that the ANC must identify the right candidates for Local Government Elections, with the required capacity to occupy key positions and enjoy confidence and support from society. This goes together with the ANC taking its work and mandate seriously ,and addressing the needs of communities and not taking for granted the frustrations and demands of the people.

Labour Law Reform-The CEC noted with concern that Business is seriously objecting to the COSATU Proposals on Labour Law Reform and calls on government to finalise its internal processes, and work with labour for the acceleration of the process towards the labour market transformation.


ILO– COSATU supports the election of an African ILO Director General, preferably a woman. We plan to work with other federations on the African continent towards identifying an African candidate with the necessary capacity, skills, and right orientation, with the interests of workers at heart to lead the ILO.

Apartheid Israel- The CEC calls for the Israeli regime to be hauled before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. Working with other organisations, COSATU will explore the possibility of officially laying a charge against Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu as a concrete exploration of how we can increase the tempo of the solidarity with the people of Palestine. COSATU is calling for firm and comprehensive boycotts, and sanctions against the apartheid state of Israel – a global embarrassment and war state.

On Mozambique, we call for a more united approach by SADC and the need for the Mozambican regime to cooperate and allow support to bring peace in Cabo Delgado. The Mozambican situation requires further strengthening of security in all our SADC states, as a long term and practical solution.

On Swaziland, we support the call for a befitting physical Memorial for Cde Mario Masuku and other stalwarts whom we have lost during the COVID 19 pandemic. We also demand the immediate and unconditional release of Cde Amos Mbedzi from Mswati’s prisons. We are appalled at the terrible state of his health and personal persecution that he is subjected to by the Tinkhundla Regime.

Women leadership -COSATU welcomes the historic appointment of the first Women Director General of the WTO, Madam Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. This appointment brings honour to Africa and shows how African people have positively impacted the world. We furthermore welcome the ascendancy to the position of Presidency of Madam Samia Suluhu Hassan in Tanzania. We salute Kenya’s First Female Chief Justice Martha Koome and hope that the ascendancy of these women signifies the beginning of a much bigger transformation. We recognise the election of these three powerful African women, the context of the reality of patriarchy facing our continent and black women in particular.

On SATUCC– the CEC expressed its appreciation of the good work done by SATTUC President who is also COSATU President Cde Zingiswa Losi and called for the heightening of our work in the regional trade union body to unite and advance workers interest decisively throughout SADC.

Foreign Truck Drivers-The meeting called for a more robust engagement on the situation of the truck drivers from our neighbouring countries in the SADC region, given the inhumane treatment towards these workers by employers, but also in due consideration of the sensitivities facing South African truck drivers. COSATU demands quotas in all workplaces to avoid the displacement of locals in workspaces and more enforcement to ensure maximum compliance with the country’s laws. This is necessary to avert a furtherance of tensions between workers.


Issued by COSATU
Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)

Tel: 011 339 4911
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