COSATU Central Executive Committee Statement

23 November 2023

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) convened its fourth Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting for the year from 20 to 21 November. 

2023 has been a difficult year for the working class.  Unemployment remains dangerously high at 41.2% though we hope the rise in jobs for the past two quarters will be maintained.  No society can take comfort when four out of 10 workers and six out of ten young people struggle to find work.

The rise in the costs of living has taken a heavy toll on working class families, with an 18.65% increase in the electricity tariff to record fuel prices of R25 a litre and a cumulative 475 basis points hike in the repo rate.  Government needs to do more to protect workers and the economy from inflation, in particular to reduce the 28% of the fuel price going towards taxes, to invest in public transport and for the Reserve Bank to ease the excessive increases in the repo rate.

COSATU applauds the work being done to rebuild Eskom, in particular the focus on ramping up maintenance. Whilst we welcome the progress made in easing loadshedding, particularly at Kusile, we must continue to give support to Eskom to ensure that loadshedding is finally overcome, in particular through enabling the utility to bring on board new generation capacity.

The Federation is deeply concerned by the impact that the crises at Transnet are having on the economy, in particular the mining, manufacturing and agricultural sectors.  Transnet is transporting less goods today than it did in 1994 when the economy was half the size.  Government needs to expedite its interventions to stabilize and rebuild Transnet.  We do not have years or months.  Thousands of mining, manufacturing and agricultural jobs are at stake.  Public services which depend upon revenues generated by a growing economy cannot afford further revenue shortfalls.

Similar interventions are needed at the Road Accident Fund, Metro Rail, the Post Office, Denel and the SABC as well as our growing number of dysfunctional municipalities.  Thousands of workers at these SOEs and municipalities frequently are not paid or denied the increases due to them.  Plans need to be put in place to halt this deterioration and those who mismanaged these institutions must be removed.

COSATU is deeply concerned by the state of the Unemployment Insurance Fund, in particular the painful difficulties workers experience when applying for their monies and the continuous allegations of serious corruption surrounding UIF investments.  The President needs to place the UIF under administration so that its archaic systems can be overhauled and modernized.  The law enforcement organs need to be given a blank cheque to investigate all investments by the UIF.  Those implicated must be removed and prosecuted.

The Reserve Bank and the Competition Commission need to hold the banking industry and those implicated accountable for the shocking reports on the manipulation of the Rand.  It cannot be acceptable that crimes which come at a heavy cost to the economy and workers are swept under the carpet simply because they were done by some in the powerful banking sector.  Those involved must be arrested and their assets attached.  Otherwise we should not expect the world to take us seriously as a country and remove South Africa from grey listing.

COSATU welcomes the proposed overhauling of our immigration legislation.  The current levels of undocumented and illegal migration are not sustainable.  A comprehensive approach is needed to place migration on a manageable path and to put pressure on neighbouring and other states’ to address the root causes of migration.

The Federation is pleased with the victories we have been able to win on behalf of the working class in the Alliance, at Nedlac and in Parliament, in particular the:

  • Two Pot Pension Reforms currently before Parliament and scheduled for implementation on 1 March 2024.  These will bring relief to millions of indebted workers.  This has been a major COSATU campaign.  Government must move with speed to ensure implementation is not delayed further.
  • Municipal Systems Amendment Act’s prohibition on all 350 000 municipal employees from holding office in a political party being declared unconstitutional by the Labour Court and reaffirming workers’ hard won constitutional rights of freedom of expression and political association.
  • Public Service Amendment and Public Administration Management Amendment Bills where similar provisions to undermine the rights of public servants and collective bargaining were blocked.
  • National Minimum Wage which has raised the wages of 6 million workers and where a positive proposed increase for 2024 has been submitted to the Minister of Employment and Labour for approval.

We welcome the progress made by government to ensure South Africa’s non-aligned role is strengthened, we remain a member of the African Growth and Opportunities Act, the successful hosting of the AGOA Forum recently which included for the first time a dedicated labour leg and engagements taking place on a new enhanced AGOA where decent work, fair labour practices and Africa’s industrialisation occupy centre stage.

COSATU will continue to engage government on the need for Treasury to move away from a neo-liberal approach to the budget and to end reckless austerity budget cuts to frontline services.  Contrary to misleading propaganda from the Democratic Alliance and Treasury, the wage bill is not out of control and in fact has fallen from 35% to 31% of the budget.  We are pleased that even Treasury has now accepted that it is myth that the public service is bloated as its the public service head count ratio has plummeted from 1 million public servants for 34 million citizens in 1994 to 1.2 million for 62 million South Africans today.  These cuts are having a massive impact upon the state to provide quality public services that the economy depends upon.  The 2024 Budget needs to be bold and progressive, to rebuild the state, grow the economy and provide meaningful relief for the poor, unemployed and working class.

2024 will be a year of great importance for workers with our most contested elections since 1994.  COSATU and our Affiliates have reaffirmed our support for the Alliance and a decisive victoriy for the African National Congress nationally and provincially.  Whilst we are disappointed by many mistakes made by government, we appreciate the many decisive gains workers have won since 1994 and under the current 6th administration led by President Cyril Ramaphosa.  We remain convince that the Alliance led by the ANC remains the only progressive and viable vehicle to advance working class struggles. 

COSATU has established its elections war room with all Affiliates working flat out across workplaces and working-class communities to mobilise voters to return the ANC to office in 2024.  We cannot afford to risk the gains working class communities have won since 1994; to political parties that promise to gut the public service, roll back the social upliftment programmes and collapse our progressive labour laws.

The Federation is working with the ANC and the South African Communist Party to ensure the reconfiguration of the Alliance and that it be entrenched as the centre of progressive policy discourse for the nation and that government deployees be held accountable for the implementation of the ANC’s elections manifestos.

COSATU rejects the shameful attacks on the right of teachers or any other workers to support the important work of the Independent Electoral Commission in ensuring free and fair elections take place in 2024.

The Federation will be intensifying its international campaigns of solidarity to workers who remain under siege across the world, in particular the heroic Palestinian people who are being subjected to international war crimes and genocide by the Israeli apartheid regime.

We will be raising the calls of international working solidarity, decent work, fair labour practices at the International Trade Union Congress taking place in Kenya as well as the World Federation of Trade Unions – Public Service International Congress taking place in Colombia.

We commend government for a successful BRICS Plus Summit and look forward to its increasing role in support of multilateral solutions to complect geo-political crises.

COSATU applauds the International Labour Organisation’s referral of the right to strike and unionise to the International Court of Justice.  We will be engaging our sister unions across the world to pressure their governments to support this cause.

We are pleased with the strides our Affiliates continue to make across workplaces and sectors.  SACTWU, POPCRU and SACCAWU have held successful historic congresses, including electing a new generation of leaders.

COSATU is intensifying support it is providing to Affiliates experiencing challenges in their sectors as well as recruitment campaigns in particular for unorganized sectors.

A call centre has been established by COSATU as part of our active recruitment campaigns, targeting in particular young workers, women, workers in vulnerable and emerging economic sectors.

We are humbled by the positive response we have received from workers across the nation during days of national action in July and October.

Workers will be gathering in their numbers at Curries Fountain Stadium in Durban on the 3rd of December to celebrate the 38th anniversary of the Federation of Elijah Barayi and Ray Alexander.  These celebrations will include sporting activities. 

The National Workers’ Day event will be hosted in Cape Town on the 1st of May 2024. 

Whilst 2023 has been a year of difficulties and achievements, 2024 will place even greater challenges on the working class and the trade union movement.  COSATU is confident that the Federation and our Affiliates are battle ready, not only to tackle the excesses of capital but also to advance the cause of building socialism.  Workers are looking to COSATU for leadership.  We dare not fail them.

Issued by COSATU

For further information please contact:
Matthew Parks
Acting National Spokesperson & Parliamentary Coordinator
Cell: 082 785 0687