Programme Director comrade Phillip Vilakazi
President comrade Joe Montisetsi and the NUM national leadership collective
Leadership of SACP and Leadership of the CEC
Deployees of the ANC to government
Most importantly, the delegates of NUM gathered here today,
Thank you for inviting COSATU to address this important policy conference. I have the privilege to greet you on behalf of COSATU and its Central Executive Committee
.Allow me on behalf of the Federation, to express our deepest condolences on the loss of the General Secretary of NUM, the late cde. David Siphunzi and cdes. Ndlela Radebe and Paris Mashego. They were indeed remarkable leaders. Their losses have not only been felt by NUM but in fact all mine workers COSATU.
Let us also remember the late GS of SAMWU, cde. Koena Ramatlou, the former Minister in the Presidency and previous MAWU Organiser, cde. Jackson Mthembu. We have lost too many comrades during this time. We owe it to them to pick up their spear and carry on the struggles that they sacrificed so much for. In the breath, we salute all the frontline health workers who dedicated their lives to save us and some of them paid the ultimate price in order to save ours. These are our real heroes and heroines.
This NUM policy conference takes place at a critical time. We are 5 days from the most difficult local government elections since 1994. The world is battling a devastating pandemic that has taken the lives of millions. Our economy is in its deepest recession in a century with millions of workers having lost wages and jobs. Government has reneged on the 2018 wage agreement. Austerity measures and budget cuts are the order of the day.
The sectors where NUM organises have faced many challenges ranging from job losses in the mining sector, to load shedding at Eskom to the global downturn in steel. Yet there are also critical opportunities in these sectors from the commodities boom to the motor manufacturing plan to the Eskom Social Compact which can help to save and create jobs and spur economic growth.
COSATU is looking forward to your robust engagements to analyse the challenges facing workers and the economy in these sectors, to craft practical interventions to advance the interests of workers and to implement them. We strongly believe that the outcomes would contribute towards the COSATU national congress in 2022.
We must mobilise workers to defend their movement and vote for the ANC on 1 November
The ANC is facing its most difficult elections since 1994. We are emerging from a decade of state capture, unemployment has passed 44% and may rise further, many State-Owned Enterprises are collapsing, municipalities fail to deliver basic services in many areas and the ANC itself has been badly damaged by factionalism. We are emphasizing our disappointments so that we hide nothing from our people.
Cosatu knows very well the achievements that workers are enjoying under the ANC-led government. We hereby confirm that life now is better than pre-1994. Life for many people has changed for better. In education to mention a few, have no fee schools with feeding scheme. Electricity and clean water for our people, we can confirm that . We enjoyed workers rights that many countries who long enjoyed freedom. It is under the ANC government who conferred workers the right to strike without fear of dismissal. It is here under the ANC government that no economic policy would be consider by the cabinet before workers are consulted. Show us any country even in advance democracy where no legislation could be considered by parliament before workers are consulted. We are raising both the positive and negative because it is the right thing to do. Hide nothing from the masses.
Cosatu can also confirm, that many mistakes have been confirmed in the process and that there are many reversals on some progress that have been achieved during this period of our democratic dispensation. It is critical important for a liberation movement like the ANC to highlight progress but at the same time acknowledge regression.
We do believe that we are beginning to turn the corner. Commissions of enquiry into corruption and state capture have been appointed, compromised Ministers and senior leaders of the ANC have been forced to step aside, officials have been charged and billions of stolen monies have been returned to Eskom.
These are positive steps forward. We need to support the President in these efforts to clean up the state and the movement. We simply cannot afford to fail.
We are all frustrated by the many blunders of our comrades. But we must remember that it is the ANC that has delivered our progressive labour laws. These include the rights to unionise, collective bargaining, strikes, paid time off and paid maternity leave.
More recently the ANC working with COSATU ensured that the Unemployment Insurance Act was amended to increase paid maternity leave benefits, introduce paid parental and adoption leave, double UIF payments from 8 to 12 months.
It is the ANC which at COSATU’s insistence, passed the National Minimum Wage Act against massive resistance from all opposition parties. This minimum wage has improved the wages of more than 6 million poorly paid workers, especially farm, domestic, construction, security and cleaning workers.
Farm workers have equalised with the minimum wage. Domestic workers will equalise with it in the beginning of 2022. This has helped them take care of their families.
The ANC with the support of COSATU has tabled at Parliament the COIDA Amendment Bill to ensure that domestic workers will be covered for injury on duty. It also includes the extension of COIDA benefits for illnesses that only appear years after a worker has left their workplace. This is critical for mine workers exposed to asbestos and other hazardous substances. It includes post-traumatic stress; this is critical for women who are harassed and suffer violence at the workplace.
During this pandemic, because of the Alliance, COSATU was able to ensure the release of over R63 billion from the UIF to assist more than 5.5 million workers who were not able to work and earn a living due to the lockdown. This helped save millions of jobs and ensure these workers could feed their families and save their homes.
There are many positive commitments in the ANC’s local elections manifesto that COSATU secured. These include to insource work in municipalities, remove corrupt Councillors, institute lifestyle audits for politicians and management, ramp up local procurement and extend the ban on politicians doing business with the state.
It is only the ANC that has stood with and listened to workers. The opposition parties are clear. They are opposed to our progressive labour laws and want them scrapped. They want to break COSATU and its Affiliates in order to destroy the ANC. Yes, we are irritated by the behaviour of some in the ANC, and they must be arrested and put in prison. But we must save the ANC for the sake of workers.
COSATU is pleased with the work NUM has been doing during these elections. We need to ramp it up. Let us ensure that we have engaged every member and their families and that they will vote on Monday. Let us assist those who need transport. Let us call and visit them on Monday to ensure that they vote early in the morning and do not take chances at night when queues are long.
Let us redouble our efforts in the highly contested wards and municipalities. Let us show that workers love the ANC and will not abandon it.
Workers need a strong, fighting fit NUM
The NUM has a track record in advancing the interest of workers not only at the workplace but even in the communities. NUM has a track record on how it contributed to the broader community struggles. It is a fact that comrade Elijah Barayi was an active underground ANC activist. NUM should be proud and celebrate its contribution in building the ANC and contributed by seconding three of its General Secretaries to the ANC. You further contributed to two State Presidents to our country. This is not a smaller contribution, and NUM should celebrate and tell her history. Our most critical task always is to ensure that our unions are well oiled engines capable of defending workers and advancing their interests.
NUM and its predecessors have a special space in the history of COSATU as one of our founding Affiliates but also as one of the pioneers of the liberation movement in its different stages. Mining has gone through painful changes over the years. NUM has not emerged unscathed from these.
We look forward to comrades engaging frankly on what must be done to consolidate, to build and to grow NUM. COSATU cannot be strong without a strong NUM. Equally NUM cannot be strong without a strong COSATU.
As we engage over the next few days, can we reflect on our education programmes. Are we equipping workers, shopstewards and organisers with the skills they need to recruit and empower workers? Are our members trained in the key provisions of our labour laws?
Are we satisfied with the skills training programmes in the sectors where NUM operates? Are the SETAs delivering value for money and ensuring that mine workers will have the necessary skills to find employment when they retire from mining?
Do we have systems to regularly monitor the level of service we provide to members and workers? A satisfied worker is our greatest ambassador. A dissatisfied worker whose plea for help is ignored by our shopstewards or offices will tell other workers that we failed them. All too often we do not pay enough attention to servicing members at great cost to the union.
We are very worried about NUM’s recruitment programme. We are seeing the decline in membership each year. Yes, there are factors outside our control such as widescale retrenchments in the mining sector. But there are also elements in our control. Members move to other unions when we do not service and protect them. What is our plan to win them back? Or are we content to have lost them forever?
There are thousands of unorganised workers. In fact, only 27% of workers are unionised. What are our plans to recruit these unorganised workers, in the construction sector, the metals and motor manufacturing sectors and even the IPPs’ workers? Have we developed an analysis of each sector and its value chains to examine where can we recruit workers?
IPPs are growing comrades. How many of their workers have we recruited there? NUM has taken over from LIMUSA. How many motor sector workers have we recruited? NUM is organising in the construction industry. Government is embarking on a R1.6 trillion infrastructure drive. What is our plan to recruit these workers and to ensure that those construction jobs are earmarked for local workers?
NUM has always been a very sharp Affiliate in matters of policy. Are there areas we need to strengthen our policy machinery as our economic sectors evolve? The energy, construction, mining and motor manufacturing sectors are undergoing fundamental structural changes globally and here in South Africa. These challenges will accelerate in the next few years. Is our policy machinery equipped to ensure that when these changes occur, our members and workers will not be left behind?
We must thank NUM for being available for work at Nedlac. We need you to intensify your work at Nedlac. This will strengthen COSATU’s engagements there and ensure the views of mining, energy and construction workers are heard.
COSATU has won many victories at Parliament. These include the PIC Amendment Act providing for worker representatives on the PIC Board and a clear pro-worker
investment mandate for the PIC. It includes strengthening the Extension of Security of Tenure Amendment Act to protect farm workers from abuse and evictions.
The former Provincial Secretary of COSATU in KZN, cde. Zet Luzipho is the Chair of the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources and Energy. The former GS of NUM, cde. Gwede Mantashe is the Minister. Are we engaging these comrades to advance the interests of workers? Let us not let these opportunities pass us by.
It is critical for COSATU to reflect on its deployment or contribution to our democratic government. Many of our former trade union leaders occupy senior position that no other class occupies. For example the President, deputy President, Minister in Presidency, Minister in Mineral resource and energy, Minister of Employment and Labour, Minister of Trade and Industry and Competition, Minister of Finance, Minister of Basic Education, this means if we utilise our proximity we can advance the interest of our members and the working-class.
We recently concluded a very successful virtual Central Committee of COSATU in which NUM played a critical role. We will be holding our Congress in September 2022.
We look forward to NUM drafting and tabling resolutions not only on its sectors but also other areas where it has expertise, e.g. Employee Share Ownership Programmes and Just Transitions and also on lessons it has garnered in job creation from the excellent work done by the Mineworkers’ Development Agency.
Scoping has historically been a matter of great concern and tension amongst unions. NUM knows how dangerous and painful this can be. COSATU with the support of the ILO has mandated expert researchers from the University of Cape Town to undertake research on scoping and to provide recommendations on how it should be handled. This research has begun. They will be contacting NUM soon to interview comrades on the lessons and experiences from NUM. Please assist them.
We have taken a resolution in our Central Committee to wards towards adopting a COSATU Medium Term Vision 2035 where we target to reach 2,5 million members. NUM should lead that process.
However to succeed, we have to do things differently particularly on our approach on space and serve our members whole-heartedly and never for a moment divorce ourselves from the masses, recruitment, retention and service. Our cadres both at official and shop stewards levels has to be modest and prudent, guard against arrogance and rashness and serve our members and their families heart and souls.
COSATU and NUM must proceed from interest of our members and not one’s interest or from interest of small group. Every word, every act and every policy must conform to members interest, and if mistakes occur, they must be arrested, and avoid foreign tendencies.
We must commend NUM for the excellent work it has done in the battles against Covid-19
None of us imagined or was prepared for this pandemic. We have all made mistakes and learned from them. NUM has been at the forefront. This included ensuring
workers received their PPEs, that the PPEs were locally made, that outbreaks were managed at the workplace, that workers received their UIF TERS etc.
We must applaud NUM for ensuring that more than 55% of mine workers have been vaccinated. COSATU’s Central Committee has set a target for us to ensure that more than 80% of workers and their families are vaccinated by the end of 2021. What is our plan as NUM to achieve this target for our members? What are we doing to address vaccine hesitancy amongst some workers?
Are we working with the employers and health clinics to educate all workers and their families and our host communities on the need for everyone to vaccinate? We need to explain to workers that this decision is not only to protect the individual but also to protect other workers. It is solidarity in action.
The vaccines have been proven to be highly effective and safe. They are essential to saving lives and livelihoods and to enabling the economy to emerge safely. We cannot afford to lose this battle. As we do so, we emphasise the process of engagement and reject the approach of mandatory vaccination.
We need to accelerate the implementation of the Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan
COSATU helped draft the ERRP. It seeks to address short- and medium-term interventions to save and create jobs and kickstart the economy. Further engagements need to take place on longer term interventions.
Key pillars to the ERRP include:
· The Eskom Social Compact to ensure there is reliable and affordable energy for the economy. The Compact was extensively engaged upon at the COSATU CEC and at Nedlac. Its key pillars include that no worker may be retrenched at Eskom, that the billions lost to corruption must be recovered and those implicated dealt with, that the billions lost to wasteful expenditure plugged, that Eskom invest as an owner in renewable energy and not simply abandon this sector to business, that Eskom must be assisted to reduce its unsustainable debt to a manageable level and that all consumers must pay for their electricity.
Its critical that NUM actively participates in the Nedlac engagements monitoring the implementation of the Compact. There is much work to be done. We need NUM to ensure that the Just Transition commitments by Eskom address the interests of workers and communities and not only save but create new jobs.
NUM has for many years correctly called for worker and community owned energy generation, including through cooperatives. How can we exploit the current space to do this? Let us not allow this moment to pass us by.
· Ramping up local procurement to save and create manufacturing jobs. This is one of the most effective and sustainable ways to create jobs and grow the economy. What are we doing as NUM to ensure that the clothes, furniture, food and cars we buy are local? How are we ensuring the uniforms, machinery and
labour procured by the mining, construction and energy sectors are locally produced? Are we ensuring that the IPPs use local labour and materials?
As part of this commitment, Treasury announced last week that only locally produced cement may be used on government construction projects. Will we play our role in ensuring this happens?
Organised Labour is meant to provide monthly reports on our local procurement commitments to Nedlac. We are failing to do this.
· Industrial Sectoral Master Plans have been and are being established for 15 key economic sectors. These include renewable energy, mineral resources and construction.
The participation of unions across the master plans has been very bad or non-existent. These are critical platforms to drive the interests of workers, to ramp up local procurement, to lay conditions for workers’ empowerment, to save and create jobs. If we are absent, who will drive these demands? Business?
We do not seem to appreciate that these windows of opportunity are not permanent. Once changes occur it is difficult to reverse. We need NUM to participate in these master plans, to participate actively in them and drive them.
Climate change is here
Business has polluted our skies, dumped chemicals in our waters, destroyed our natural landscapes. Workers and communities have been left with devastated communities, suffer from terrible illnesses and are left to foot the bill to repair the damage. Each year we can see the acceleration of climate change.
We will be attending the COP conference next week. We need to say as labour and in particular as mine, energy and construction workers what do we want to be done to address and halt climate change, to save at risk jobs, to create new jobs, to ensure we do not create ghost towns? It can only be unions who do this. If we fail to do this, workers and communities will pay the price in job losses and economic devastation.
We need to ensure that Eskom enters the renewable energy space as an owner, that we build factories in Hendrina, Komati and Grootvlei to produce renewable energy technology locally. We cannot remain an importer of solar panels. We must ensure that workers are trained and skilled and not sent to the unemployment queue.
We need to ensure that our motor manufacturing sector is geared to produce electric and hydro vehicles. Otherwise that industry may die. We need to ensure our mining sector is geared for this upswing in platinum and lithium. Let us ensure that local beneficiation finally takes place.
COSATU is undertaking a review of our Climate Change and Just Transition policy. We look forward to this policy conference enriching it.
Comrades allow me to conclude by thanking NUM for remaining the pillar of COSATU that it has been since our founding. NUM has not only built COSATU, but it led the struggle for democracy.
Let this policy conference lay the path for ensuring that this proud tradition of NUM continue.
I thank you. Matla!