The Central Executive Committee met in its normal session from the 23rd -25th of May 2022.The meeting took note of the continuing job losses that have worsened our rate of unemployment and the twin problems of electricity cuts, and the fuel price hikes that are raising the cost of living for workers.
The meeting is calling on government to take drastic steps to fix these problems and stop outsourcing its responsibility to the private sector. We also call on government to extend the temporary fuel levy reduction of R1.50 beyond the 31st of May, while exploring a more sustainable solution
The CEC expressed its shock and sadness over the ongoing femicide in South Africa. We send our message of condolences to the families of Namhla Mtwa, Bontle Mashiyane and Hillary Gardee and others, who were brutally murdered across the country.
Law enforcement agencies need to do everything to arrest the perpetrators, and government needs to step up the fight against this scourge of Gender Based Violence that is consuming the country. This is a societal issue that needs all social partners from churches, traditional leadership, civil society, and all communities to confront this problem.
The meeting received a report on the preparations for the upcoming 14th National Congress to be held in September at Gallagher Estate, Midrand. The meeting welcomed the progress report, and expressed contentment with the advances made on both the logistical arrangements and the discussion documents for the congress.
The CEC expressed its full support for the striking workers at Sibanye Stillwater, UNISA and SARS, led by both NEHAWU and NUM. We support all striking workers in all sectors of the economy and encourage them to defend their unity. These workers are showing everyone what should be done. We are also calling for Orange Grove Farms to engage with workers and resolve their legitimate demands, and we support our affiliated union SACTWU for ensuring that workers’ rights and needs are championed and defended.
During this round of collective bargaining, workers need to understand that nothing will be handed over in a platter by employers. Unions need to sharpen their research capacity and empower their negotiators with requisite tools to get the best outcomes possible on behalf of workers. Workers also need to realise that our only weapon and defense is our organisations, unity, and struggle as workers.
COSATU and Affiliates will redouble their efforts and wage relentless battles in defence of collective bargaining, workers’ hard won labour rights and their right to a living wage. The meeting instructed the COSATU Campaigns and Organizing Coordinating Committee [COCC] to coordinate solidarity actions in support of the workers currently on strike, including dignity packs for the workers at the Union Buildings in Tshwane.
The CEC reiterated its call for South Africans to continue to vaccinate in the face declining levels of vaccination and increasing levels of infection. Vaccines have been scientifically proven to be highly effective in drastically lowering infection and death rates. We should not allow complacency to drag us into the difficult period of lockdowns. Vaccinating is not only about protecting the vaccinated individual, but it is also about showing solidarity with other workers and creating a safe working space for them. The economy cannot afford and will not sustain another economic lockdown, nor should it when vaccines are freely available. The Federation, though, remains opposed to mandatory vaccinations.
2. On Organisational Assessment
The CEC acknowledged the convening of nine (9) successful provincial congresses, nine Gender Conferences and a Young Workers Summit, and agreed that a lot of progress has been registered in strengthening our organisational machinery and placing our members at the centre of all that we do. However, it also recognised that alongside the solid advances that we are making, there are some shortcomings and challenges that still remain to be overcome. COSATU has made a lot of progress over the last four years in implementing the 13th National Congress mandate to unite workers across political and ideological divides.
Our upcoming congress is faced with a critical task of developing strategies to respond, in a sustainable way, to the current challenges. We appreciate that for our organisation to grow in strength and numbers, we need to deliver services effectively to members, and run solid campaigns.
We intend to revitalise our organising drives and work with our unions to strengthen the framework for collective bargaining in order to improve service delivery to members and grow the unions.
These shall constitute part and parcel of our new programme of action in 2023 which will be adopted by the 14th National Congress. The CEC will continue to work closely with some of our affiliated unions like SATAWU, CWU, AFADWU, CEPPWAWU and PAWUSA to enhance internal democracy and organisational cohesion. The meeting appreciated the progress that has been made by SAMATU, and we look forward to their congress in August.
May Day Assessment- The meeting reflected on the May Day celebrations and congratulated the thousands of workers, who participated in our nationwide May Day celebrations. On the disruptions that happened in Rustenburg, the meeting expressed regret that both the President of the ANC Cde Cyril Ramaphosa and the General Secretary of the SACP Cde Blade Nzimande were unable to deliver their messages of support due to disturbances.
In its analysis, the federation noted that this regrettable incident reflects the worker’s dissatisfaction with the socioeconomic crisis engulfing the working class in general. Workers have legitimate anger over their stagnating wages and the reversal of their gains at a workplace level, and deteriorating services in our communities.
The disruption exposed the chronic weak state of the ANC, its leagues, and the Alliance in general both in terms of organisational cohesion and strategic orientation. It is clear that our broad movement is facing immense challenges and has lost touch with its base.
The federation has been consistent in pointing out that the national democratic revolution is poised at a crossroads and the balance of class forces remain overwhelmingly in favour of capital. This dominance of monopoly capital means that many of the socio-economic gains that we have achieved since 1994, are being eroded by the continuously declining share of the workers in the national income.
The sixth ANC administration continues to preside over economic contraction and job-losses despite the fact that its mandate from both the Nasrec Conference and the 2019 national general elections called for urgency and determination in turning around this trajectory.
This is a challenge for all key components of the Alliance who will be convening their national constitutional meetings in the next six (6) months. We all need to use these upcoming meetings to further develop and sharpen our overall strategies and tactics for the deepening of the national democratic revolution, and the struggle for socialism.
We intend to convene urgent meetings with the SACP and the ANC to discuss issues affecting workers in South Africa. A Cosatu Special Campaigns and Organizing Committee would also be convened to beef up the analysis and enrich the recommendations towards the coming National Day of Action.
The meeting commended all affiliates who contributed to the donation that was made by the federation to the KZN flood victims. This is the kind of practical solidarity that is needed going forward.
Social Relief- The CEC endorsed the extension of the R350 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) Grant, especially because it has provided relief to more than 10 million unemployed recipients. We feel that it is affordable at a cost of R44 billion out of a budget of R1.8 trillion. What is not affordable is to leave 10 million unemployed persons with no source of income. The grant recipients must be linked to skills training programmes to help them find jobs. We cannot sustain a ratio of 14 million employed persons supporting 30 million social grant recipients and unemployed persons. The R350 SRD Grant must be extended beyond 2022, increased to the food poverty line, and used as a foundation for a basic income grant.
Climate Change-Detailed reports were received on the positive work being done by the Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Commission. It is critical that efforts to tackle climate change are accelerated and that just transition plans are put in place to ensure that affected workers and communities are not left behind.
The Federation reiterated its support for those who lost loved ones and for efforts to rebuild communities affected by the recent floods in KwaZulu-Natal and neighbouring provinces. The floods must be a wakeup call for government and municipalities to take the need to invest in infrastructure seriously. The government needs to resettle many of the vulnerable communities and spend money on the infrastructure rollout to rebuild the province.
Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan-The Federation is calling upon government and business to speed up the implementation of the Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan, in particular the implementation of the Eskom Social Compact and a debt relief package for Eskom, rebuilding Transnet and Metrorail so our goods and commuters can reach their destinations safely and on time, ramping up the fight against corruption, and supporting locally produced goods.
The CEC noted the release of the SACP, and ANC Policy Papers and the Federation shall engage and respond these documents in the build up to both the ANC Policy Conference and the SACP National Congress in July. As members of these formations of our movement and as part of the federation, we shall ensure that all the necessary preparations and interventions are made leading to these important gatherings, including ANC’s National Conference in December.
Amongst other main priorities to deal with is the inability of the ANC as a ruling party to formulate state policy and monitor its implementation, and the tendency to elevate and outsource its responsibility to its deployees and bureaucrats on government.
There is also an urgent need to close the gap between the masses and the ANC and confront the reality that the people on the ground are losing confidence in the capacity of the ANC to drive transformation.
Another challenge is the deliberate hollowing out of the concept of a developmental state by the ANC government. On one hand there is continuity with the Neoliberal agenda in the state, whilst at the same time there is talk of a move in the direction of the developmental state.
The reality is that the South African state has been taken over by private interests and the statement that government does not create jobs by President Ramaphosa demonstrates this fact. There are also policy initiatives that have been introduced in the public service, including the drive to reduce the public service wage-bill in the fiscus. This underlines the fact that in practice there is little evidence of any commitment to building the developmental state.
A materialist analysis of the state demands that the economic beneficiaries over the past 24 years be specified. Those who benefited are the ones who wield state power and thus are responsible for the socio-economic trends that have emerged over the same period. The analysis of trends in income distribution, unemployment, poverty, health, education, housing, and access to basic utilities over the past 28 years points unambiguously to the capitalist character of the state.
The analysis also shows that this state, whilst it represents an advance over the apartheid capitalist one in the sense that it has reduced the brutality of exploitation, has nevertheless facilitated the deepening and escalation of exploitation under more humane conditions. A state that is developmental cannot be legislated, it depends on what the state does and how it does it. In our case, a state will be developmental if it develops its capacities to address the terrible legacy of apartheid and capitalism.
Camouflaged privatisation -The CEC has noted the alarming and ongoing attempts by government to privatise most of the SOEs through backroom tactics like unbundling and the cutting off of funding to facilitate their collapse. The Post Office, Eskom, Denel, SAA, Transnet are some of the SOEs that are being dismantled and collapsed so as to prepare them for their privatisation. We intend to discuss this with the ANC because it’s one of the issues that bother and alienate workers from the movement.
5. On Legislative work
Employment Equity Amendment Bill- The CEC welcomed Parliament’s passing of the Employment Equity Amendment Bill. This will help transform workplaces so that they reflect South Africa’s demographic diversity and compel companies applying for state tenders to follow the Employment Equity and National Minimum Wage Acts. We urge Parliament to pass the Compensation of Injury on Duty Amendment Bill which will see 800 000 domestic workers enjoy cover for the first time.
Companies Amendment Bill- The meeting has denounced as scandalous the actions of Sibanye, who have paid their CEO Neal Froneman about R300 million per annum, whilst refusing to pay mine workers an additional R150 per month. This has shown the need for the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition to urgently table the Companies Amendment Bill at Parliament. This Bill will require listed companies to disclose their wage gap to their shareholders and the public in their annual reports. This will help to begin to address the apartheid wage gap still prevalent in many companies, in the mining, banking and retail sectors. The CEC wants the PIC and other investment funds who manage workers’ pension and insurance funds need to play a more activist role in placing limits on what CEOs earn and the wage gaps in companies where they are shareholders.
Pension Relief Bill– The Federation is pleased that Treasury has committed to tabling the long-promised Pension Relief Bill at Parliament to allow financially struggling workers limited access to their pension funds to pay off debts, cover medical and other financial and family emergencies. Treasury has committed to tabling this Bill at Parliament by August 2022 so that it can come into effect by April 2023. We expect them to honour this commitment because millions of workers are financially distressed and drowning in debt.
NHI-COSATU is pleased with progress that Parliament is making processing the National Health Insurance Bill. We cannot sustain a public healthcare overwhelmed and starved of resources catering for 84% of society and increasingly unaffordable medicals that bleed the pockets of those workers fortunate enough to have them.
Public Procurement Bill– The CEC is pleased that the Public Procurement Bill is now before Nedlac. It is critical for a single, transparent online public procurement system be established for the entire state, including SOEs and municipalities. This is key to reducing corruption and wasteful expenditure, and to boosting public procurement.
Two tier labour system– The meeting expressed its total rejection of ongoing attempts, by both government and business, to introduce labour laws that are meant to create a two-tier labour market system. Some of these laws are trying to exempt SMMES from labour law provisions on protecting workers during probation. They are also pushing for extension of probations, weakening protections from dismissals; and weakening or exempting SMMES from retrenchments, bargaining council collective agreements, and dismissal payments. These egregious assaults on worker rights will not be entertained and will be aggressively contested by the federation and its unions.
The proposed Social Compact must be based upon progressive principles.The Federation will not agree to any weakening of our progressive labour laws
Russia-Ukraine-The CEC debated the Russia-Ukraine conflict with the assertion that war cannot be condoned. Human suffering cannot be excused, and violence in any form injures all of us.
The CEC further committed to intensifying efforts to show practical solidarity to the workers of Ukraine, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Western Sahara, Cuba, Palestine, the Basque Country, and Venezuela.
CUBA-The meeting reaffirmed its unwavering international support for the people of Cuba, who have relentlessly reaffirmed their commitment to socialism, despite a ceaseless onslaught from the US. For Cuba socialism is the bottom line and remains non-negotiable. The federation declared its intention to assist where possible but also to continue to lobby on behalf of CUBA in all international platforms. We shall continue to push and encourage the South African government to strengthen trade and overall commercial relations with CUBA.
The case by Afriforum against South Africa’s co-operation and assistance of the people of CUBA is informed by their historical grudge they have against Cuba for assisting in the project of liberating black people in Southern Africa. CUBAN people sacrificed blood and Treasure at the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, where white supremacy championed by Afriforum was dislodged in the region.
Africa-Reflecting on Africa Day on the 25th of May 2022, the meeting also committed itself to fostering the unity of the African trade union movement and enhancing solidarity with all workers, in all sectors on the continent. In light of this, COSATU is working tirelessly to influence the formalisation of realistic labour migration policies in the countries of origin and countries of destination in the SADC region through our participation in SATUCC. On our end, the federation has finalised a Draft Policy Position Paper on Labour Migration, which will be used as a framework for engagement on the Department of Labour’s Draft Labour Migration Policy at NEDLAC.
The Federation has noted with alarm the growing xenophobia directed at foreign nationals, in particular those of African origin. COSATU has repeatedly condemned these attacks as barbaric and a source of untold embarrassment to one of our founding principles – the principle of international worker solidarity. The government needs to deal with the growing number of undocumented immigrants, who continue to flood into the country.
They include people claiming to be asylum seekers, though in reality hardly any of them qualify as such but are economic refugees seeking work in South Africa. There is also an urgent need to solve the problem of exploitation of undocumented immigrants by unscrupulous employers, particularly in the farm, construction, and hospitality sectors, where employers cut wages and worsen working conditions. If this is not properly handled, it can lead to more violent conflicts with local workers who are competing for the same jobs. We reiterate our call for the labour migration policy to be accelerated.
WFTU-The federation congratulated the new leadership of WFTU, welcoming the newly elected General Secretary Comrade Pambis Kyritsis, and supporting the re-election of Comrade Mzwandile Makwayiba as the President of working class orientated organisation, as we fight against neoliberalism, fascism, and racism. The CEC also congratulated COSATU GS Bheki Ntshalintshali for his election as one of the Vice-Presidents in the newly elected WFTU Presidential Council.
Issued by COSATU
Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794