The Congress of South African Trade Unions held a scheduled meeting of its Central Executive Committee from 21-23, February 2022, attended by all affiliated unions and federation’s structures.
The Federation reflected on the state of its affiliates as part of its commitment to building stronger affiliates and strengthening its organisational engines at all levels. We acknowledge the relentless commitment and resilience of our affiliates, who continue to assert their presence across all the sectors the economy.
The CEC has resolved to continue to intervene on affiliated trade unions dealing with internal challenges including those under administration by the Registrar of Labour.
We plan to intensify the fight against increasingly hostile employers, and campaign against retrenchments across all sectors of the economy as a result of Covid-19.
We shall intensify our solidarity work between workers and affiliates and step up our recruitment campaign with renewed focus on organising young people. On this front, we also plan to convene a Young Workers Summit between the 20th -22nd April 2022 to focus on the plight of young workers in particular.
The CEC reiterated its commitment to work closer with other trade union federations and work to foster unity amongst unions in general, to eliminate sectarian differences and strengthen cooperation and solidarity.
Congresses and Conferences
We continue to rebuild our structures at local, provincial, and national level, using our congresses. The meeting saluted all the federation’s provincial structures for convening peaceful and productive Provincial Congresses and Gender Conferences across all nine provinces.
We have started our preparatory processes for our upcoming 14th National Congress in September this year, and the National Gender Conference between June 21 to 23
We are preparing our inputs for the Constitutional meetings of our alliance partners, the SACP Congresses and ANC Conferences.
COSATU’s main Workers Day (May Day) celebrations will be held in Rustenburg in the North-West. We will also continue our tradition of having decentralised Mayday celebrations acrossthe country’s nine provinces.
We shall continue to develop a job-loss monitoring mechanism to keep tabs on job losses in the economy, and the formation of a united front against poverty and unemployment. We intend to continue to fight for the rights of workers as the fundamental basis of South Africa’s labour market policy. We will recruit workers to COSATU because it is through our unions that these workers can take advantage of their rights in the law. We commit ourselves to resist with all our energy and power attempts to reduce the rights of workers under the guise of “labour market flexibility.” We will strengthen the rights of workers in small businesses, with a combination of an organising strategy and protection of the rights in the law.
Gender Based Violence
The CEC expressed its disgust with the extent of Gender-Based Violence and femicide that continues to engulf the country, more especially when the country. We are shocked by the continuous hateful killings of women and children and the way it is escalating. We, therefore, call upon all communities to work hand in hand with the authorities in ensuring that the perpetrators are apprehended, and they rot in jail.
The CEC expressed its concern that nearly five years after the Nasrec Conference, progress in implementing its economic resolutions is too slow. Key elements of economic policy which are out of kilter with Nasrec, remain in place, and are being entrenched by centres of power in state which remain committed to pre- Nasrec perspectives, particularly by Treasury.
We remain disappointed that the government has not adopted a far-reaching programme to transform the economy in favour of the working people and the poor. Even the universally supported Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan and the 15 industrial sectoral master plans have not received adequate funding and full political support.
We call on the National Treasury to speed up allowing workers to access their pension funds during this period of financial difficulties imposed by the outbreak of Covid-19. We intend to lead the campaign on local procurement to save local jobs and boost manufacturing. Working with our affiliated unions we intend to engage with various Ministers on saving jobs in different sectors of the economy.
The federation reiterates its call for workers to support the national vaccination programme. We continue to reject mandatory vaccination and we shall work side by side with students’ movements against imposed vaccinations in higher education institutions
The CEC has noted the statement by President Cyril Ramaphosa on building a developmental state. Our position is that a developmental state cannot be built on the foundations of Neoliberal policies. The Federation raised concerns that the existing dominant market-driven logic in the state continues to retard realization of the vision of a developmental state. Even progressive elements of the new administration’s agenda remain relatively timid when it comes to questions such as direct state intervention in the economy, state economic ownership, action against monopolies etc.
The current situation in South Africa calls for more boldness that is currently not evident in government’s policy announcements. Without willingness to act decisively to advance the developmental state vision, discussions of this matter will remain at the level of empty rhetoric.
We are concerned both about the coherence of the approach with regards to government economic development, as well as the philosophical perspective informing this development. Arguing that the private sector knows best despite the evidence to the contrary is sowing confusion.
The idea of a developmental state which “plays a central and strategic role in the economy “hinges on the ability of the state to deploy its instruments and institutions, both as an economic player, and to intervene to channel the operations of the private sector into a developmental agenda.
The exaggerated fear of alienating capital has meant that government has adopted the posture of ‘enabler’, and at best ‘regulator’, to provide the space for capital to operate. Because the posture prevents the state from transforming the environment, this results in capital reproducing essentially the same relations of exploitation and domination inherited from apartheid era; where these relations have shifted, they have obviously endeavoured to reproduce them on favourable terms under the new conditions.
We remain opposed to the unbundling of Eskom into three different entities. The Federation remains adamant that the unbundling of Eskom can only lead to privatisation and job losses. Energy production is the hallmark of any economy; hence, we argue that energy production; transmission and distribution cannot be left to the private hands but must be state-owned and controlled. This is a national security sector which must be protected from private sector profit motives. We, therefore, demand that the corporatisation of Eskom and current attempts to privatise its assets be stopped. Additional support for Eskom is needed to reduce its debt levels, ramp up maintenance, bring on board new generation capacity and tackle corruption. The economy needs a reliable and affordable electricity if it is to recover. COSATU will campaign for a Just Transition to ensure that jobs within the coal mining towns are saved.
National Minimum Wage
The CEC welcomed the adjustment of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) by CPI plus 1% including the equalization of farm and domestic workers. These increases will make a positive difference to over six (6) million workers. The only remaining exception is Expanded Public Works Programme and Community Works Programme workers who remain pegged at 55% of the NMW which will now be R12.75. The CEC has noted attempts by various employers to avoid paying the minimum wage and in response we intend to work with other social partners to educate workers on the minimum wage and their labour rights.
The meeting reiterated its position for government to take sweeping measures to clean up the rot that has been exposed by the Judge Zondo Commission of Enquiry into State Capture and Corruption.
We remain perturbed by the lack of appetite and political will to investigate and prosecute private sector corruption. The private sector is responsible for the economic mess that the country finds itself in. The CEC declared a campaign to champion the whistleblowing campaign across all sectors of the economy and demand more action against the killing of those who oppose corruption and maladministration.
The CEC in its discussion concluded that the upcoming 14th National Congress in September provides us an opportunity to take stock and make assessments about how different classes and social strata have positioned themselves in the transition, and which class has managed to impose its hegemony.
The meeting in its brief and general analysis reflected and reiterated its posture that because of the multi-class character of the NDR, various class forces continue to contest its essence and there is a life and death fight now underway to disarm and re-direct the NDR from its socialist and pro-poor orientation.
The liberation has long been seen by the Alliance as more than attainment of formal political liberation and installation of a political system entrenching democratic rights. It also involves the liberation of the Black majority from the socio-economic legacy of poverty, underdevelopment, exploitation, and inequality.
So far, our government has sought to reinforce the logic of the capitalist accumulation path as logical. This has left the poor worse off than they were, with 46% of the adult working population unable to earn a living.
In response the CEC has resolved that the working class should assert its leadership role of the NDR, and not outsource this leadership role to other class forces. The working class must re-direct the NDR towards socialism and bring back the fundamental thrust of the Freedom Charter.
A need has arisen for a popular movement towards socialism, located within a structured Alliance and involving a range of mass movements, to be formed to assert the leadership of the working class in the NDR.
In trying to expand on this analysis and in preparation for the congress, the CEC will convene a Political School next month to further reflect on these issues. This will include reflecting on the state of the Alliance, analysing the ANC election results, discussing the question of the SACP and State Power, and analysing the qualitative effect of the “swelling the ranks campaign”. This is especially important considering that some former members of the Party and COSATU reject the very same things they used to champion and defend free market ideals once they get deployed in government.
The CEC welcomed progress in processing key progress legislation. These include:
The Employment Equity Amendment Bill currently before the NCOP. It will help strengthen the existing Act, allow the Minister to set targets for sectors and regions falling behind, allow companies to choose between national and regional employment equity targets, empower labour inspectors to issue compliance orders to offending employers, require companies doing business with the state to follow the labour laws, provide incentives for companies who follow the labour laws, and embrace good labour practises.
The Compensation of Injury on Duty Amendment Bill, currently before the NCOP. It will provide cover for the over 900 000 domestic workers, provide for protection from workplace diseases and post-traumatic stress disorder, increase the time within which workers may submit claims, and provide limits on the fees lawyers may charge their clients in such cases.
The 3 Gender Based Violence Acts have now been signed into law by the President. They increase the powers of SAPS to enter premises where GBV is occurring, tighten bail; sentencing and parole conditions; provide for greater protection for complainants; prohibit the employment of offenders in certain exposed professions; and require all GBV convicts to be published in an offender register.
International Labour Organisation’s Convention 190 on Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Workplace has been assented to by Parliament and the President and its instruments submitted to the ILO. Social partners at Nedlac must now ensure our labour laws are in full compliance with the Convention’s progressive provisions.
US/Russia– The CEC condemned the US sanctions targeted against Russia, as Ukraine tensions rise. We stand with our BRICS ally during this time. However, the federation is unequivocally against any form of conflict on the globe, which always affects the poor and working class. With this, we urge Russia to engage in peace talks with Ukraine, as the possibility of imminent war in Ukraine has raised fears not only of massive casualties but of widespread energy shortages and global economic chaos.
CUBA– The CEC once again condemned the genocidal US blockade waged against the people of Cuba, reaffirming the decision to contribute to the Cuban Humanitarian Aid, as Cuba’s economic crisis becomes more and more untenable. We salute our affiliated unions for making donations to the CUBAN people and we continue to urge all organisations who are opposed to the senseless sanctions against CUBA to donate to the CUBAN Humanitarian Aid.
Palestine– In solidarity with the Palestinian cause, the CEC called on Africa to withdraw from the United Nations as it has failed the people of Palestine. The Palestine problem has been on the United Nations agenda for more than half a century. The challenge for diplomacy has gone unanswered. Israel, which has occupied vast Palestinian and Arab lands, remains in possession of those lands. It has even moved its capital from Tel Aviv to Al Quds. Palestinians live under terrible oppression, but the UN has been unable to do anything about it. Palestinian people in Israel, in West Bank and Gaza, continue to be driven away from their homes to make way for new settlements for Israelis. The UN has done nothing to challenge the international community’s view of entirely anarchic. The CEC also called on the AU not to grant Israel observer status in the continental body.
Western Sahara– The CEC reaffirmed its position on Western Sahara, calling on the African Union (AU) to be decisive and expel Morocco on its illegal occupation of Western Sahara.
On Swaziland, the CEC was resolute that the rights of the people should be granted. King Mswati III continues to rule on the blood and corpses of thousands of Swazis who have either been wounded for life, are held in Swazi jails with no trial or have died fighting for democracy. The CEC called on the South African government to sanction Swaziland and bring the King to his knees.
Furthermore, the CEC urges the AU to oust Swaziland’s administration led by King Mswati III from the continental body if they continue to refuse to comply with international laws and do not agree to a democratic dispensation.
Issued by COSATU
Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794