COSATU CEC Statement February 2020

The Central Executive Committee met in its normal session from the 24February to 26 February 2020. The meeting received an address from the ANC and country’s President Cde Cyril Ramaphosa. The President reiterated his administration’s commitment to fixing the economy and strengthening law enforcement institutions to fight crime and corruption. He also told us of his government’s commitment to the Manifesto and the ANC resolutions like keeping SOEs under state control and expropriation of land reform.

Working with the Student Movement: The meeting congratulated SASCO for convening a successful National Congress. We are calling on COSAS members to prioritise unity and put the interests of the organisation first. We are also concerned with the state of the progressive student movement and youth formations and going forward we plan to increase our cooperation and support of these organisations.  

Retrenchments: The CEC expressed concern about the ongoing jobs bloodbath and resolved to continue to intensify the fight against the increasingly hostile employers. Workers continue to feel the sting of an economic decline and resultant job losses. as the private sector continues to reject a moratorium on retrenchments or a cap on executive salaries.

The employers are undermining collective bargaining and retrenching because they are following in the footsteps of government. The private sector’s decision to renege on the Job and Investment Summits is a reminder that this crisis is for workers and the poor but the private is doing fine. Yesterday’s  budget was meant to pacify big business and they are unlikely to change their attitudes because there is no reason for them to. We will continue to work hard and use all available platforms including Section 77 Notices to fight against retrenchments.

Unions and recruitment meeting took note of the progress that our affiliated union SAMWU has made in rebuilding internal capacity and achieving unity. This is a welcome development that will ensure that workers in the local government sector have a solid home and a formidable champion that will defend their rights and pursue their aspirations. The CEC also acknowledged the success of our recruitment process that has generated a 30 000 growth in membership. We have also received a number of applications from unions that want to affiliate to the federation, and we will process them following the proper processes.

Compensation Fund: The CEC is disturbed that there are problems within the Compensation Fund, and we are also disturbed by the failure of the fund to communicate with relevant stakeholders on what is happening within the CF. The Federation has written to the CF and demanded that the Board meeting planned for the 11th of March should clarify these systemic issues and resolve them speedily.

COSATU Eskom proposal: The CEC received a progress report on the work done to engage with social partners on the federation’s proposal for an intervention package to save Eskom. This intervention will be based upon a social compact of government, business, labour and community.  The proposal will see each social partner contributing for the broader public good. This is the first step on ensuring that workers dictate how and where their pension funds are invested. This proposal is also in line with our resolution adopted in the 8TH National Congress  that called for the federation to ensure that an appropriate mandate is set for investment managers, and that worker funds are used to promote the broader goals of development and decent work rather than the narrow interests of fund managers. The meeting resolved to expedite this work and also convene an economic workshop with progressive thinkers to take this work forward

Government Employees Housing Scheme: The CEC resolved to uncompromisingly push for the development of the GEHS, tapping into the workers retirement savings. Retirement savings are the biggest institutions of social ownership, which is why the federation is campaigning to for the introduction of the Prescribed assets Requirement Legislation, compelling retirement funds, and the life assurance industry to channel a prescribed portion of their investments into social investments. Workers retirement savings should benefit workers and the economy. The Federation also wants government to address the issue of the missing middle by providing bursaries for those students who do not qualify for National Student Financial Aid Scheme.

National Minimum Wage: COSATU condemns the National Minimum Wage Commission for implementing a paltry 3.8% increase in the National Minimum Wage (NMW). Inflation is decimating the wages of the working-class families are dealing with electricity, fuel and other hikes that are far above the 3.8% increase. By only adjusting the NMW for 3.8% and not 12.5%, the Commission has failed to meet its legal and moral obligations. The CEC calls on the Commission to begin its work of assessing the impact of the NMW and to ensure that NMW receives a substantial increase in 2021 and that farm, domestic and public works programme are pushed to 100% of the NMW by 1 January 2021.

Public Transport system: The CEC expressed its disappointment with pedestrian approach adopted by government when it comes to sorting out the messed up public transport system, Prasa in particular. Prasa is sabotaging workers because they are losing wages and jobs as a result of Prasa’s ineptitude. We welcome the investment of R1,4 billion in modernising the Prasa rail network but this is not enough.

 COSATU continues to call, for an integrated, safe, reliable and affordable public transport system for the country. The attainment of this requires investment in the transport infrastructure. The apartheid legacy and its spatial development in particular left the majority of the working people and their families without good public transport system.

We still argue that government’s decision to opt for market solutions to the public transport problems in the country was a big mistake. The establishment of the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) within the Department of Transport and the subsequent expansion of the road tolling system has made things worse. We still insist that e-tolls should be abolished and Sanral should be co-opted back to the Department of Transport.

Corruption: The CEC appreciated the work that is being done by the new administration to strengthen the law enforcement agencies and other judicial institutions. But the meeting expressed concern that there is little progress when it comes to prosecuting those who are implicated in corruption. We disagree with the decision to extend the Zondo Commission of Inquiry and we demand action now. The fight against corruption cannot be won if government continues to adopt this automatic and pedestrian approach.

Gender Based Violence: We are troubled by the scourge of gender-based violence and the violence against children. The stories like the one of an 8 year old who was raped in Cape Town, of a male student who was stabbed by his girlfriend and of Lindokuhle Cele who was a victim of hate crime in KZN remind us of the damage that is being done to our society by senseless violence. The Federation reiterates its commitment to playing a leading role in fighting the scourge of gender-based violence, inside the trade union movement, in the workplace and in broader society. We call on the South African government to ratify Convention 190 on Ending Violence and Harassment in the workplace.

Attacks on the Public Service: Cosatu rejects government’s narrow fixation with the public service wage bill. We view this provocative budget as a challenge from the national Treasury and we accept it. We will not allow the workers to be used as a scapegoat for this economic crisis. These cuts directed at the public service will have severe implications for the economy.

Poorer regions rely disproportionately on public service employment and cutting wages of public servants will intensify poverty and regional inequalities in South Africa.

The cuts also have severe gender implications because the public service has been an important source of good jobs for women, in a labour market which discriminates against women. Women account for a greater proportion of public servants and a sizeable majority of educators; so, a cut in wages will reverse the gains that have been made to close the existing gender inequalities. Therefore, budget cuts will not only increase geographical inequalities but gender inequalities as well.

Alliance: The CEC took note and acknowledged the progress that is being made to reconfigure the Alliance but understanding that the Alliance is based not on sentiment history of our struggle but on a common programme, the meeting expressed concern about some major weaknesses. The scorecard suggests that beyond broad statements on shared objectives, the Alliance still has a limited influence on what happens in government. The ongoing public sector dispute and the budget clearly demonstrate this.

If the national democratic revolution is a struggle primarily led by the working class, in alliance with other popular classes, then at the level of the economy the working class must be positioned to be the main beneficiary, through forms of economic organisation that advance its interests. For example, co-operative ownership and state ownership of the means of production must be vigorously pursued, so that broad based black economic empowerment takes a distinctly working-class revolutionary character.

At the centre of class struggle is the improvement of the socio-economic conditions of the working class. At the economic level within the context of the national democratic revolution and the progressive national democratic state, capital accumulation cannot proceed on the basis of rising rates of exploitation of the working class, as happened since the democratic breakthrough.

In order to avoid this phenomenon from happening, within the context of the national democratic revolution, new forms of organisation need to be invigorated so that they provide the critical dynamic link between the state apparatus and communities. Without well -functioning Alliance structures from the bottom up, the working-class risks losing political leadership within these communities and the movement risks being dislocated from its mass base.

The Core Priorities for 2020 as identified by the CEC are as follows:

1.1.      Convene and Coordinate a Popular Campaign for Jobs and Decent Livelihoods for All

1.2.      Convene a National Bargaining Conference (In September) to assess, overhaul and transform the bargaining landscape towards the full Launch of a Living Wage Campaign

1.3.      Intensify the NHI Campaign – NHI means quality, accessible and affordable Healthcare for all!

1.4.      Build Safe workplaces and communities NOW – End Violence against workers, women and children

1.5.      Fight Corruption – Ending Corruption means more resources for workers incomes, community development and service delivery

1.6.      Heighten the struggle against Climate change and for a Just Transition that protects jobs, livelihoods and the environment

1.7.      Wage a Fight against the cost of electricity and promote access for the poor to affordable energy

1.8.      Build a skilled worker for the skills revolution – Engaging the Fourth Industrial Revolution as a developmental tool for workers

1.9.      Convene the Workshop on the Economic Crisis, Jobs and Alternatives (In March) as a start towards sustained deeper education on economic and strategic questions facing workers and society.

International: The CEC is calling on government and President Cyril Ramaphosa to use the AU Chairpersonship to drive the African agenda and make sure that peace prevails, and economic cooperation grows in the continent. We also want the Africa Free Trade Agreement to have a social clause that will ensure that the decent work agenda is defended, and trade union rights are respected. 

Issued by COSATU 

Sizwe Pamla -Cosatu Spokesperson

060 975 6794