The Congress of South African Trade Unions wishes all its members and the workers in general a restful and happy holiday season. We wish them safe travelling on trains, planes and on the roads across the country as they make their way home or to their respective holiday destinations.
We remind and urge them to continue to take COVID-19 seriously and adhere to all the necessary guidelines and protocols to curb the spread of this deadly virus. We salute all the fallen heroes and heroines that have died in the line of duty, especially frontline workers who lost their lives taking care of others; and police officers who died while trying to maintain law and order and keep South Africans safe.
The Year-2021 has been a very hard year for workers. Our economy has been shedding jobs at an alarming rate, load shedding and the COVID-19 pandemic continued to suffocate and disrupt an already ailing economy.
This is one of the reasons why we are encouraging all workers and South Africans to vaccinate to save both lives and livelihoods. In the most recent jobs report, another 600 000 jobs were lost, and this means another COVID-19 lockdown will decimate the few remaining jobs.
Already about 1.5 million jobs were lost in 2020n and this would have been higher if COSATU did not ensure that R63 billion was released from the UIF to help 5.5 million workers. This was more than 45% of the UIF’s assets and now that this relief has stopped and the UIF has runout of funds available to intervene, it means we need to vaccinate to avoid these lockdowns.
Organizationally, the federation has worked very hard to navigate this unpredictable period with our unions and structures convening important meetings, congresses, and strikes.
We had a successful 7th Central Committee to assess the progress we have done in implementing the resolutions of the 13th National Congress and start the groundwork in the buildup to the 14th National Congress next year. We continued to have another successful virtual May Day celebration and convened another Day of Action on the 07th of October 2021 to mark the International Day for Decent Work.
Our affiliated trade unions have acquitted themselves very well in representing their members under very challenging conditions. They have reminded all and sundry that what has kept the federation alive over the last thirty-six (36) years is its adaptability, originality, and hard work.
On the legislative front we are pleased with the progress we have made to advance workers’ rights. Key victories this year include the coming into effect of the Public Investment Corporation Amendment Act providing for worker representation on its Board. This amendment calls for transparency and accountability to tackle corruption and will allow workers an opportunity to have a say on how their money is invested.
Parliament is processing the Compensation of Injury on Duty Amendment Bill which will extend protections for all workers and for the first-time domestic workers. The Employment Equity Amendment Bill is now before the NCOP and will help drive transformation at the workplace. Parliament has passed the three (3) Gender Based Violence Bills which will be key tools in the fight against GBV. South Africa has ratified ILO Convention 190 on Sexual Harassment and Violence in the World of Work. It will be critical to ensure our labour laws are in line with its progressive provisions.
Recently, the Federation pushed for an adjustment of the National Minimum Wage from. R21.69 to R23 for all workers. We are happy that all social partners agreed with COSATU, and they supported an increase of CPI +1% to the NMW. Farm workers were equalised to the NMW in 2021 and domestic workers will be equalised it in 2022. These represent real gains for the most poorly paid workers.
The Federation has also been persistently pushing the National Treasury to allow financially distressed workers limited access to their pension funds. We welcome the release of a discussion document by National Treasury that will kickstart the negotiations on this matter. It is crucial that the necessary amendment bills be tabled at Parliament by April 2022 for these to come into effect by the beginning of 2023.
We have also championed the introduction and extension of the COVID-19 R350 grant We continue to push for it to be extended beyond March 2022, and for it to be increased to the food poverty line, and to be used as the foundation for a Basic Income Grant.
We also championed the Disaster Relief package that accommodated workers and Small Businesses after the July riots that took place in both Gauteng and KZN.
In our Pre -Medium Term Budget Policy Statement submissions, we called on government to double the R21 billion allocated to the Presidential Employment Programme. We are pleased that government has responded to this call by increasing this allocation to a combined R74 billion over the next 3 years. This should help create more than 1 million badly needed jobs.
While the victories are plentiful, the challenges remain enormous. In the public service, we continue to see the devastating impact of the budget cuts on workers’ wages and on their ability to deliver the much-needed services to the people. Labour market institutions like the CCMA, UIF, Compensation Fund and others are not in a healthy financial position. This is because of either mismanagement or the misguided budget cuts that have been imposed by the National Treasury for the last couple of years.
The attacks on collective bargaining have not subsided and poor compliance with occupational health and safety protocols in most workplaces persist.
We need to push for the reversal of the budget cuts that have led to an unacceptable wage freeze in the public service, the disintegration of the CCMA, and retrenchments in State-Owned Companies.
We need to unite as workers and collectively demand that the private sector abandons its investment strike that has seen many companies either hoarding or exporting cash out of the country, despite receiving generous incentives to invest back into the economy.
This year billions were given away in tax cuts, with the hope that companies will invest in the economy and create jobs, but the real unemployment has grown to 46%. This means that government is running a corporate welfare state that continues to take resources from the poor to support corporations without demanding anything in return.
If there is no change in the country’s economic policy direction, the already low standards of living of working people will deteriorate significantly. More livelihoods will be destroyed by the resultant deepening turmoil, and it will take South Africa decades to recover from this massive jobs’ bloodbath.
We intend to continue to be a fighting and campaigning federation, that raises issues affecting workers and communities, particularly; jobs, poverty, unemployment, inequalities, gender-based violence, crime and corruption, racism, as well as health and education crisis facing the working class.
We shall work to strengthen our capacity to recruit, service and educate workers to become revolutionary activists in their own rights and take up all issues affecting their communities, including poor service delivery and abuse of public resources.
The Central Committee resolved that the federation should grow and intensify its programme to organise the unorganised. We know that the best way to recruit is to improve the service we give to the members we have because satisfied members will lead the recruitment campaign.
With the current economic crisis, we do suffer from the scarcity of resources, and this means we need to maximise our limited resources and deploy them to heighten our offensive against our primary class enemies. We are clear that there is no battle we will ever win without us consciously acting to assert our presence on the ground.
Politically, we saw an alarming deterioration in the political fortunes of the ANC. The Local Government Election outcomes are a huge cause for concern. They are not just an indictment on the ANC but on the Alliance and the Mass Democratic Movement as a whole.
We intend to push for all Alliance partners to reflect on these results individually and collectively. We do not have the luxury of time to misdiagnose or misunderstand the message that the voters have relayed to all of us. It is obvious that voters are demanding fundamental economic transformation, and this time they do not want general promises and vague commitments, but they demand practical proposals and decisive action.
Therefore, the Federation is reiterating its call for the implementation of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan that was adopted by all Social Partners. This is our only hope if we are to avert both an economic and political implosion in the country.
These festive holidays give us an opportunity to take a short break and prepare for a very busy hectic year ahead. All nine of our provincial structures will be convening their congresses early in the year. This will kickstart preparations for our 14th National Congress to be convened in September 2022. We also have our political allies the ANC and the SACP preparing to have their important constitutional meetings next year. We intend to actively participate in influencing and shaping the outcomes of these important meetings.
Internationally, we have done a lot of work, especially on offering solidarity to the people of Swaziland. The fight for democracy in Swaziland is gaining momentum, and we need to continue to be at the forefront of supporting the Swaziland workers, at this critical time. We also plan to intensify our work to support the struggle for a Free Palestine and campaign against the American interference in Cuba.
Lastly, during this festive season, we urge all those with means and resources to share with those who are beset by poverty and struggling. Many families are struggling with many breadwinners having lost their means to earn a living due to job losses because of the ongoing economic crisis
The Federation calls on companies to pay workers their 13th cheques so that they can afford to buy food and clothes for their families during this festive season.
We should all try, share, and remember that more than half of the adult working population is unemployed in this country, and this means they will be struggling to make ends meet during this festive period. The principles of unity and solidarity should continue to guide us, as we enjoy this festive holiday season.
During this festive time, the Federation cautions all workers against engaging in alcohol abuse and unnecessary expenditure. Alcohol abuse is one of the main causes of Gender-Based Violence. The scourge of GBV needs to be defeated and all of us have a role to play. We urge males to take on this fight and protect women and children.
Happy holidays to all South Africans and a happy new year!
(NB: While some officials of the federation will close, the core organisational machinery remains available to represent workers and support their struggles during this period.)
Issued by COSATU National Office Bearers
Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794