The Congress of South African Trade Unions held a scheduled meeting of its Central Executive Committee from 26-28 February 2018. The meeting discussed and resolved on a number of organisational, political, international and socio-economic issues affecting the workers and the working class in the country and around the world.
We have noted that throughout the world, since the onset of the capitalist crisis, the ruling elites have imposed extreme sacrifices upon the workers. The South African workers need to recognise that this country is facing economic decline and that for the country to get out of this economic down turn, there will be continued attempts to force the workers to sacrifice their rights as seen in the budget. A proposed increase of Value Added Tax by one percentage point from 14 percent to 15 percent; and an increase in the fuel levy by 22c/litre and the road accident fund levy by 30c/litre, effective 4th April 2018 is an attempt to shift the burden of adjustment to the workers and their families.
They have often succeeded where the unions are weak or are divided along narrow sectarian lines. In this unfolding capitalist crisis, trade unions need to respond with militancy and programmes of the mass-line in defending the working class. During this round of wage negotiations, unions need to take up the fight for better wages and improved benefits to the employers in a disciplined and fearless way. Unions should go out there and fight hard for decent wage increases that will bring about meaningful change to the lives of the workers.
We need to realise that for us to fight back, we need to be united as workers across union lines and adopt the idea of sympathy strikes and solidarity rallies embracing the widest sections of workers. A failure by trade unions to unite and collectively work together to defend the interests of our members in the face this widening social and economic crisis would be reckless and a form of cowardice that we would live to regret.
The CEC meeting expressed anger over attacks on a police station in Engcobo, Eastern Cape. We commend the police for acting swiftly in arresting the perpetrator. We send our heartfelt condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of the six officers that died in this horrible attack.
We have seen more than five Metro Police Officers dying on duty in Gauteng. We also remember all the workers that have died in mine accidents and other incidents at work. This matter of Health and Safety is becoming a major concern for us as the workers and we demand more action from government. We were lucky that there were not lives lost at Beatrix Mine where more than 1100 workers were trapped underground. We have not forgotten the Lily Mine tragedy and the workers whose remains are yet to be repatriated from the mine. We implore the new Minister of Mineral Resources to attend to the Lily Mine crisis.
Our priority is in Building COSATU and her Unions
The federation starts this year with the same commitment that we ended the year 2017, focusing on building and strengthening the engines of the federation. We plan to roll out our recruitment campaign and intensify the fight against increasingly hostile employers. We shall continue to anchor our Back to Basics Campaign by visiting workplaces and engaging with workers in their own workplaces.
COSATU is pleased to see the unrelenting commitment and resilience of our affiliates in defending the rights and pursuing the interests and aspirations of their members. Many affiliates are busy asserting their presence all across the sectors of our economy. Their uncompromising attitude and fearless character acts to re- affirm the character of COSATU as a militant, radical and class oriented federation of trade unions.
COSATU will be celebrating the 2018 May Day under the theme: “Building Unity and Cohesion of COSATU to advance the National Democratic Revolution. We shall intensify our workplace visits to listen to the workers and also address all their challenges like we have been doing for the last couple of months. This is also the year of Congresses, where we will be reporting to the workers on the progress we have made in implementing their mandate and also seek a new mandate.
We welcome the Department of Labour’s planned increase in labour work place inspections and reduction in fatalities on duty. However its targets are woefully inadequate because a 10% reduction in work place injuries in the context of daily deaths and injuries on our mines is shamefully insensitive. We demand that the DOL be adequately resourced and equipped with more labour inspectors.
The 54th Conference and demands for the working people
The CEC meeting took place after a very politically eventful four months period for our Alliance and the country in general. During this period, we saw the convening of a successful 54th National Conference of the ANC, the recall of President Jacob Zuma and his replacement by President Cyril Ramaphosa and a subsequent Cabinet reshuffle. We also saw action being taken to establish a judiciary commission of inquiry and the investigation of the Guptas and all the individuals and businesses associated with them.
Notably, all of these developments formed part of the political priorities given to the federation by the 6th Central Committee of the federation in May 2017 and demands contained in our Section 77 Notice that culminated into our National strike on the 27th of September 2017.
What became obvious during the last two years is that this giant federation is regaining its influence because once again it proved its ability to shape the economic, political and social developments in our country.
It is an undeniable fact that this time last year both the ANC and the country were facing great deterioration and possible calamity. It took the political courage of this organised component of the workers to stand up and demand a new political direction for the ANC, the Alliance and the country.
We did not just pound the pavement but we also engaged in political battle that shifted the political sands and allowed the new era to be born. We salute the workers for fearlessly leading from the front and not becoming spectators in the unfolding political events in the country.
While the CEC acknowledged the role of COSATU in bringing about the new era in the ANC, Alliance and the country; it also recognised that rallying around the Cde Ramaphosa in the build up to the Conference were a range of class interests that are actually composed of contradictory ideological and political forces. They were essentially united around the necessity of dislodging the Gupta state-capture, turning around the degeneration of the ANC and generally concerned about the state of governance and the socioeconomic plight of the masses of our people.
This then poses the challenge for COSATU to reflect and grapple with the realignment and mutation of these forces as they battle for influence over the policy direction of our government. This means that the autonomy and power of COSATU, which requires us to mobilise in support of the working class interests is going to remain central going forward. We remain hopeful that the outcomes of the conference represent a victory for the organisation and a turning point in the long trajectory of self-destruction of our movement.
COSATU expectations- (No Blank Cheque)
One of the achievements of our national democratic revolution (NDR) has been its ability to mobilise and unite our people, particularly the black majority around the project of non-racialism and non-sexism, and more precisely around the project of nation-building. This achievement was secured first and foremost in uniting our broader movement, the ANC itself, the Alliance and the broader range of popular formations.
Our revolution is now faced with growing threats that undermines our ability to not only unite but to also mobilise the black majority. As long as we cannot mobilise and unite the black majority, the possibility of uniting all South Africans, black and white will increasingly fade away. COSATU expects the ANC leadership to reject and deal with the resurfacing of narrow Africanism (including tribalism and regionalism) which is tied to populist demagoguery within and outside the ranks of our broader movement.
COSATU is also clear that the strategic task of regaining the unity of our people will not be possible without us proceeding with the second more radical phase of our revolution and to be precise, with a more radical economic transformation to overcome systematic features of growing unemployment, obscene inequality and mass poverty. To be more precise, we cannot effectively mobilise and unite our people without a programme aimed at ending monopoly capitalism, accelerating state-led industrialisation, overcoming apartheid spatial inequality, and advancing our massive education and training programme and so on.
We want the new leadership to prioritise the Unity of the ANC and the movement as a whole. This unity must be unity which consciously places the centrality of the working class as motive force at the forehead of the revolution.
We want the reconfiguration of the Alliance into an alliance of equals that has political authority to deploy, keep deployees accountable, support them and recall them.
We want a total ban on labour brokers, especially in the context of the recent court judgment which vindicated us that after the three month probation period, a worker must enjoy all other rights like full time employees in the company. The e-tolls also need to be scrapped, especially in the context where there is a clear realization in the ANC that e tolls were amongst the reasons which led to losing the Johannesburg metro.
We demand an alternative development strategy because pursuing economic growth for its own sake is not enough. Economic growth is only a means to an end and in itself; it is not enough to solve the triple crisis of unemployment, deepening poverty and inequality. What matters to us as the workers is the quality of growth and not necessarily the quantity. We have experienced jobless growth before that increased inequality and poverty.COSATU wants a politically governed redistribution of wealth and opportunities from the formal to the non formal sectors of the economy.
We want to see bold transformation measures and not marginal programmes that will not change anything. The state must take the lead to transform the legacy of underdevelopment and we want a developmental state to implement a developmental agenda.
We still insist that the NDP is not a developmental vision and therefore we cannot have a comprehensive development strategy based on the NDP.Its economic and labour chapters need to be reviewed. To ensure the achievement of these goals, we need to establish a government system that would coherently advance our developmental priorities and our strategic objectives as the ANC as well as the Alliance.
The progressive policies that could help tackle our crisis of unemployment inequality and poverty have been promised without being implemented, the people are running out of patience and the ANC is increasingly running out of time. It is now up to the ANC leadership to appreciate the urgency of the situation and focus on delivering on the promises promised to the people. We continue to hope that the Nasrec Conference represents the dawn of a new path of a people centred development trajectory and a disciplined revolutionary movement.
The functioning of the Alliance
Engaging the SACP – The Vanguard of the working class
The CEC recognised that the 14th Congress of the SACP placed two key interrelated issues on the agenda – the question of the SACP and new alliances and the question of the SACP and state power. It made it very clear that this new phase in the NDR would require some concrete adjustment and realignment with regard to the organisational form for the advancement of our struggle. Hence, the SACP congress agreed with COSATU in calling for the reconfiguration of the Alliance to reflect the changed material conditions and the changing perspective of the SACP itself in relation to the question of state power.
We also acknowledge that the SACP has decided not to cast the outcome of its 14th Congress in stone but instead plans to canvass the views from the working class formations within the broader democratic movement. This will provide an important opportunity for COSATU and its affiliates to reflect on these weighty matters of the SACP and state power and implications of this question on the nature of the Alliance for a decision in the next COSATU 13TH National Congress in September this year.
Going forward in the build up to our Congress the federation will convene a bilateral with the SACP in order to continue to grapple with the Party’s new position on State Power because it does pose new challenges to the traditional Alliance led by the ANC. We shall also deal with the question of the reconfiguration of the strategic alliance with COSATU and ANC around the minimum programme of the Freedom Charter, as well as the short-term tactical alliances with the broader formations within civil society that may share our temporary common interests and concerns. We need a strategic discussion about the politics of broad fronts and their impact on the Alliance relations.
We now have a situation where the SACP and COSATU totally agree on the need for a fundamental change in the nature of the Alliance. The last Alliance National Political Council did not deliver much and the next Alliance Political Council meeting and Alliance Summit need to take stock of what has happened and create an environment for the Alliance to rebuild in a manner that deepens the NDR.
The meeting noted that for nearly a quarter of a century now, the socioeconomic conditions of the people in terms of unemployment, inequalities and poverty have worsened rather than improved despite some of the achievements by government.
It was disappointing to witness the last budget, where government again failed to rise to the occasion and come with a serious plan and budget to address the nation’s many crises. This budget was another missed opportunity to move towards a people driven and people centred development, since the Neoliberal policies of the last two decades that have leaned on “market forces” have seen more people sliding into poverty.
COSATU demands high impact and transformative interventions in the economy in order to deal with unemployment, inequality and poverty. Government needs to assets its central role in the economy by driving the financing and development from within. We reject privatisation and demand a state led industrial strategy and the provision of an affordable finance through a state bank. We need state facilities that will provide finance to the poor and small businesses at very low rates in order to create the much needed employment.
The meeting reiterated the federation’s position that without a shift in the macroeconomic framework in line with the resolutions of Nasrec, important policy advances will not see the light of the day. The federation plans to wage a battle to change this macroeconomic framework, whilst insisting that some of the proposed interventions such as job creation schemes, green economy projects, support for cooperatives, skills development, etc are implemented.
We demand that the ANC engineer a policy shift that will radically increase the incomes of workers and the poor because the current economic trajectory has created the needs for social grants and continues to reproduce them. The national minimum wage should allow us to deal with the current low wage regime that produce the phenomenon of the working poor and deprives many people of the basic level of dignity.
The re-composition of the president’s team at the cabinet level should be followed by the deployment of Heterodox economists to the Ministry of Finance and other strategic economic departments, so that they can implement activist and distributive fiscal and financial policies and moderate the National Treasury and Reserve Bank’s orthodoxy.
We demand a reasonably ambitious programme of growth acceleration by investing in infrastructure, transport and energy. We need to ensure that all our policy interventions are geared at supporting local production instead of fuelling the purchases of imported durable goods. This should be complemented by the new mandate of the Reserve Bank, Land Expropriation without compensation and other policy proposals coming out of Nasrec Conference. We need to see an increased consumption that is based on rising incomes rather than credit. The federation needs government to take on the markets by implementing effective taxes on capital flows and by also introducing a more effective regulation of workers’ rights.
On VAT Increase
COSATU rejects the proposed increase of Value Added Tax by one percentage point from 14 percent to 15 percent; and an increase in the fuel levy by 22c/litre and the road accident fund levy by 30c/litre, effective in April 2018. This is a way of forcing the workers to pay for the sins of others. We call on the National Parliament to either reject VAT Increase of expand the basket of zero rated goods. We demand all food items, water, electricity, books , school uniforms to be zero rated. We have made our submissions to parliament yesterday and if we do not get any positive response, we will mobilize workers for a strike against the VAT increase.
Competition Amendment Bill
We have noted that in December 2017, the Department of Economic Development published the Competition Amendment Bill. One of the main objectives of the Bill is to break down monopolies in the economy, which constitutes a stumbling block towards economic development and creation of decent jobs. We will fully support this bill and we are encouraging affiliates and the wider public to comment and support this proposed law.
Universal health Care in our life Time
The year 2018 marks the first year of the second phase of NHI implementation. The first phase of NHI implementation as envisaged by the revised NHI white paper, included the establishment of the pilot projects, establishment of the NHI work streams that will make recommendations on the implementation of the NHI, the strengthening of health system; as well as the establishment of institutions such as the Office of Health Standards Compliance and the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority.
Given the enabling legislative framework as well as the allocation of funds into the NHI fund we expect no further delays in the implementation of the NHI. COSATU calls for the following:
- The National department of health must adhere to the targets as set by the NHI white paper.
- We call for a mid-term review of the NHI implementation plan to assess if the 1st phase targets were achieved.
- The establishment of the NHI implementation structures with labour represented in each committee.
Rebuilding the SOE’s
COSATU views the State Owned Enterprises (SOE) as important drivers of radical socio economic transformation, industrial development, training, job creation and also to enable the Developmental State to deliver on its developmental mandate. These SOE’s will not be able deliver on these developmental objectives because on the one hand, they are being run down by corrupt elements through State Capture and corruption, and on the other they are competing with private sector companies in delivering various services. Whilst it may be premature to celebrate the newly elected ANC leadership’s anti-corruption stance, we applaud government’s right messages and efforts to root out corrupt elements in the management of these enterprises.
However, the priority should not only be on financial management because the biggest problems facing SOE’s is corporatisation and tenderisation which have resulted in bad or no service delivery and have created a big room for corruption to blossom. Therefore, de-commercialisation and de-corporatisation which must include in-sourcing are important in eliminating corruption in the public and private sector. We want firm action against those implicated in corruption in both the private sector and public sector. SOE’s and SARS need to be cleaned up and all the guilty parties need to be fired and prosecuted.
Bringing back the land
The meeting also saluted the ANC for supporting the EFF motion on Land Reform. We encourage black political parties to work together in changing the lives of the poor majority and transforming the ownership patterns of the economy. We are happy with President’s commitment to the implementation of the ANC Policy of Expropriation without compensation without compromising food security or the economy.COSATU demands that this policy should prioritise farm workers. All farm workers need to be given title deeds so that they can have access to government services like housing, health, electricity and schooling. We also want these workers to have land to bury their loved ones with dignity and peace and not be evicted and harassed by their racist and exploitative employers.
The policy should also be accompanied by training and government support in order to assist the new farm owners to use their land productively, and in order to expand employment and produce food. The struggle was always about the land and we demand our land back.
Issued by COSATU
Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794