COSATU Central Executive Committee statement 27-29 May 2019

The Congress of South African Trade Unions held a successful Central Executive Committee meeting from 27-29 May 2019 to discuss a number of issues affecting the workers, in particular, and the working class in general.

Our conclusion is that our reading of the global balance of forces as articulated by the 13th national congress remains valid in many respects for the current period. Globally the capitalist crisis has driven down standards of living and the livelihoods of millions of people throughout the world. Unemployment is still stubbornly high and wages remain depressed. 

This is a crisis whose main features include the increasing rate of exploitation, the decline of the rate of profit, the intense tendency to geopolitical competition, and growing inter-imperialist rivalry over markets. This inter-imperialist rivalry is intensifying because Russia and China, in particular, are unwilling to accept a subordinate position of an unchallenged US global hegemonic domination.

This CEC also noted that the ANC electoral victory took place in a fluid international environment and this must be taken into account in debating prospects for change and possible limitations. Clearly, there is a reconfiguration of the balance of power internationally with the emergence of China as a powerful player and with its ongoing trade war with the USA affecting mostly the developing economies.

We have noted with deep concern that Venezuela remains a major target in Latin America of the United States government for the spread of their own neoliberal democracy. US imperialism is spending large sums of money funding various reactionary groups that are opposed to the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela and to create conditions of a civil war in the country and to overthrow the Maduro government. The CEC condemned the US government and salutes the popular Bolivarian forces for pushing back against counter-revolutionaries.

The CEC offered its message of solidarity to the people of Cuba who are facing an ongoing onslaught from the Trump Administration. We applaud the people of Cuba for rallying behind the revolutionary Cuban government, and for enthusiastically reaffirming their commitment to socialism.

We have also conveyed our heartfelt condolences on the people of Mozambique following massive destruction after the SADC region was hit by a tropical cyclone Idai. We are calling on all the African union member states to practically assist recovery and reconstruction efforts.

National General Elections

We are concerned but not surprised by the shrinking electoral margins that the ANC won the recent National General Elections.  This narrow Electoral victory for the ANC means more pressure for the government to speed up transformation and deliver on poverty and employment commitments. The challenges we face can never be fully addressed without a fundamental review of economic policies and without an active and clear industrial policy that focuses on meeting the basic needs of our people instead of a narrow focus on producing for external markets.

The ANC needs to appreciate that workers did not give it a blank cheque but it’s the progressive tone of the Manifesto that convinced the working class to give it another chance.  The Manifesto generally represented a significant shift to the left on economic policy, as reflected by a heavy emphasis on employment creation and equity. That commitment struck a chord with the people, who appreciated that their biggest socio-economic concerns were receiving the attention they deserve.

Overall, the Manifesto talked more about the centrality of the state interventions to restructure the economy. The majority of voters feel the state must play a leading role in transforming the economy toward more equitable and job-creating growth.

COSATU and the working class will continue to defend the progressive character of the NDR and in interacting with this new administration, we shall continue to be guided by the dictum – power concedes nothing without a struggle. There is no honeymoon period for President Cyril Ramaphosa and his sixth administration. The working class is running out of patience and we expect bold and decisive leadership in fixing the country.

On non-trading holidays

The federation has resolved to push for the government to pass a law that will ensure that Freedom Day , May Day and Election Day are declared no-trading holidays. This is the first thing that we want President Ramaphosa to resolve in his administration. Many workers are victimised and punished for participating in these important historical celebrations. COSATU has a Section 77 Notice on this matter and will be intensifying pressure and its campaign at a provincial level.

The Alliance

The CEC reaffirmed the centrality of the Tripartite Alliance and has recommitted itself to work hard to make it an even more effective political leadership structure, which, together with the broader mass democratic movement, will ensure mass participation in the continuing battle to resolve the outstanding challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

The elections, as usual, brought the Alliance together. We have seen that our revolution would be weaker without the Alliance but also the Alliance must not become an elections machinery only. COSATU has long argued that its usefulness and activities must not be limited to delivering and working together only during the elections while being excluded from governance. To that end, it must exercise effective oversight and collectively define a deployment strategy.

The challenge going forward is how the Alliance will maintain unity and cohesion. The CEC has noted that the Alliance in some provinces is operating at an uneven level and we need to address that.   All the Alliance partners and the rest of the democratic movement again felt that the ANC took their concerns to heart and this is the reason why COSATU was able to throw its entire organisational machinery behind the ANC campaign.


Recruitment campaign

Our history has demonstrated that unless workers are united and cooperate with each other they will never realise the objectives they set out for themselves. This is the reason the Federation has reaffirmed its commitment to building a giant, united, progressive COSATU that unites all workers.

The CEC has resolved to roll out a nationwide recruitment campaign, with realistic but ambitious targets. We are clear that this will only succeed if unions also improve the quality of service to members.

To do this we shall focus on improving the basic services that members get on a daily basis. We expect all our affiliated unions to ceaselessly and fearlessly champion the rights and interests of workers by assisting them at the workplace to deal with wage bargaining, unfair dismissals, discrimination at the workplace, and other such matters.

We are working hard to help our vulnerable unions and the CEC has been impressed by the partial progress on that front. We are working hard to help SAMWU to comply with the Labour Relations Act because we want all our unions to comply with the laws of the land.

Living Wage Campaign

The CEC has made it clear that we need to prioritise the problems experienced by women in the workplace, farm workers and other vulnerable workers. Addressing the apartheid wage gap as part of our Living Wage Campaign is what will occupy us going forward.

COSATU believes that the Living Wage is the primary means for workers to fight poverty, close the apartheid wage gap and address broader inequalities in our society. The Federation’s idea of the Living Wage also includes the provision of social services. Our Living Wage demands are therefore broader than just wages and extend to what is sometimes called the social wage.

These include a legislated minimum wage; the Regulation of executive pay, Disclosure of Company Profits; Guaranteed Decent Employment by the state, Decent Housing, access to Land; access to Quality Healthcare, access to Quality Education, and access to affordable, efficient, safe and integrated public transport system amongst others. The Federation has resolved to convene a Bargaining Conference next year to take forward the fight for a Living Wage.

Economic policy

The Federation will not support conservative fiscal and macro-economic policy, which leads to job losses and undermines the commitments for greater social delivery we made in the Election Manifesto. During the Nasrec Conference, we were starting to emerge with a new consensus in the Alliance on macro-economic issues. This must be urgently taken forward in the next Alliance Summit.

This means that the government should develop programmes consistent with its central messages during the campaign to address the socio-economic demands of the working class. We are aware that the government must be seen to be responsive to the demands of all members of society, which includes our class enemies but these contradictions should be managed in a manner that imposes the working class hegemony in general.

The Jobs Campaign

The CEC has resolved that our central campaigning focus must be around job retention and job creation. We shall defend ourselves against the jobs bloodbath that we have seen over the last couple of years.

We also denounce and reject the idea that retrenchments in the public service are justified because of the notion that the public service is bloated. The government needs to perform an independent scientific skills audit in the public service and in the SOE’s before even talking about a bloated workforce and redundant skills. We demand a moratorium on retrenchments until proper procedures and a skills audit are formalised and negotiations entered into between employers and the unions at the PSCBC. The unilateral actions of the state set a dangerous precedent for other employers to follow

As COSATU, we remain committed to public sector restructuring; by which we mean increased social delivery to the mass of working class and rural communities. We want to see the development of a work ethic which promotes greater service and efficiency and not the wholesale downsizing, outsourcing and privatisation that is being pushed by DPSA and the National Treasury.


Retrenchments of any kind are categorically rejected by COSATU. We have noted the plight of the BOSASA workers who have suffered job insecurity as a result of the imminent liquidation of BOSASA, following the revelations from the State Capture enquiry. The Federation is in active conversation with various relevant ministers around the issue of BOSASA workers to ensure that the workers are in-sourced into the various state departments.

Worker ownership in mines

The CEC welcomes Exxaro’s announcement to transfer 50% shareholding in the Arnot mine to former employees. This move must be celebrated and used as a case study for more mining houses to share their mineral wealth with their workers.

The Federation also supports Sibanye’s take-over of Lonmin mine because Lonmin has a history of halting the stop orders of the NUM in an attempt to frustrate the National Union of Mineworkers. We continue to take seriously any attempts to frustrate worker’s gains in terms of labour rights and we will approach the DG of Mineral Resources to write a letter to Lonmin to compel them to comply with their legal obligations or face the revoking of their mineral license.

Issued by COSATU

Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794