COSATU Central Executive Committee statement 26 August 2020

The Congress of South African Trade Unions held a scheduled meeting of its Central Executive Committee meeting from 24-25 August 2020. This virtual meeting took place in the context of a deepening and unprecedented health, economic and political crisis. This crisis has seen the economy being decimated by a lockdown and hundreds of people dying in South Africa.

Marikana- The CEC took time to remember the 58 workers that were killed in the course of the Lonmin and Impala labour strikes of 2012. The death of these workers is a reminder of the immorality of Capitalism and cynical Alliance between government and the private sector. We reiterate our call for the implementation of the recommendations of the Farlam Commission and urge the government to also give support to the families of ten workers that were killed before the 16th of August in Marikana.

1.    COVID-19

COVID-19 pandemic: The meeting remembered all citizens, including workers who have died of COVID-19 over the last couple of months. We send our condolences to the families. This deadly virus has inflicted economic and emotional havoc on many families. We salute our frontline workers who are putting their own lives in danger to lead the fight against this deadly virus. It is a crime that these brave workers do not get the necessary support and protection from the government.

We urge all South Africans to play their role in reducing the spread of the virus. Alert level 2 does not mean the virus is gone. People must drink responsibly and follow the adopted health procedures and protocols to fight this virus.

The health department needs to supply workers with necessary PPEs and fill all vacant posts within the public health sector and open new posts where necessary. This must be accompanied by infrastructure revitalisation.

Public Service Health and Safety Protests-The CEC expressed its total support for the planned protests to protect and defend frontline workers that are being ravaged by the COVID-19 virus. Our unions in the health sector are busy mobilising to fight against the uncaring attitude of the health department in preparation for the National Day of Action.  Government’s failure to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and to adequately protect these frontline workers cannot be tolerated. COVID-19 is a pandemic of epic proportions and workers and communities are most affected by this pandemic.

Support for the NHLS Strike: We commend and offer our full support to the workers at the National health Laboratory Services under the leadership of NEHAWU for standing up and pushing back against employer arrogance. We call on all unions and workers to support this action.

UIF TERS Fund: The CEC called on UIF to expedite the process of paying the outstanding monies to the workers. Workers are desperately in need of this money and these delays are unacceptable. Workers through the UIF Covid-19 Temporary Employee Relief Scheme are the only social partner to have injected a stimulus into the economy over the past five months. To date, the scheme has dispersed more than R40 billion into the pockets of workers. This fund must be extended to September 15 in line with the Level 2 restrictions for workers, businesses and sectors that remain under partial and full lockdown.  

Building Domestic Manufacturing capacity: The CEC called on the government to support and encourage South Africa’s local manufacturing by buying local, starting with PPEs. It is disconcerting that 65% of our imports are manufactured goods because this is an indication of high import penetration and possible dislocation of domestic firms. This means that we need further intervention at SARS to ensure a massive expansion of its customs enforcement capacity. The government should put measures in place to encourage local businesses to increase local production and stimulate job creation. To deal with corruption, the government needs to introduce an online, transparent single public procurement system for all organs of state, e.g. national, provincial, and local government, public entities and SOEs.


Future of the trade unions-The ongoing economic crisis and the accompanying retrenchments pose a real threat to the trade union movement. The future of trade unions will be determined by the nature of their response to this crisis. While retrenchments will likely impact unions, there are also opportunities to be exploited. Over the last five months, we have noticed that fears of redundancy and an increase in anxiety is driving a surge in numbers of workers joining our unions. Fighting against exploitation and servicing members remains the best way to recruit. Only reliability and hard work by affiliates and everyone will help us to forge a united and militant federation under these current difficult conditions. COSATU remains the home of all workers and we caution workers against following demagogic unions who offer them false promises and quick solutions and then ditch them when they are in trouble.

New Affiliation applications– COSATU is continuing to grow by attracting new unions and recruiting new members. The Federation has recruited about twenty-five thousand members since the beginning of the year and has received affiliation applications from several unions. The Federation welcomes back its former members from the National Transport Movement (NTM) andAgricultural Food and Allied Workers Union (AFADWU), who have decided to come back home. These two unions have brought about 100 000 members back to the federation. The Federation is also processing the applications of SATDWU (South African Taxi Drivers Workers Union), TUMSA (Trade Union of Musicians in South Africa and other unions who want to affiliate to COSATU. The Federation is processing these applications in line with its Constitution. We continue to believe in the principle of one country one federation and to champion the unity of workers.

Future of Work- The CEC reflected on the challenges related to the new type of work and the changes brought by technology. Globalisation and technological development have resulted in the transformation of the workplace and the nature of work is set to change further with the advent of the so-called 4th Industrial Revolution, which is based on digital technology, advanced robotics and automation and smart factories, where human intervention is minimal. The COVID-19 outbreak has accelerated and exacerbated this situation. COSATU’s planned National Bargaining Conference will be grappling with this and other issues. This meeting will be used to bring another dimension to our organizing work and shift from our traditional/conventional ways of doing things to accommodate this new phenomenon. But we remain adamant that technology should work for humanity and not replace and destroy humanity.

Public Service Salary Dispute-The CEC reflected on the on-going salary dispute regarding non-implementation of clause 3.3 of Resolution 1 of 2018, in which public sector workers did not receive their well-deserved salary increase for 2020.

The Federation has pursued a multipronged strategy to force the employer to honour Resolution 1 of 2018. This involved arbitration, political engagement at the level of the Presidency and mass mobilisation. The public sector workers have been at the forefront in the fight against COVID-19 and their dedication, good work and bravery is not appreciated by government. The national treasury is leading an onslaught against workers and it is trying to erode their hard-won rights and suppress their wages. This failure by government to implement the resolution undermines collective bargaining and will widen the trust deficit and poison relations. A bruising fight is looming if the government does not give workers what belongs to them.  

Defending Collective Bargaining-The Federation is disturbed to note that government is leading the charge in undermining collective bargaining. The failure to honour signed agreements is nothing but a declaration of war. Government’s decision to undermine its own laws and ignore its own obligations will lead to chaos. In an environment with no rules, chaos reigns. The CEC has resolved that all COSATU unions should fight back and go on strikes if necessary. COVID-19 should not stop workers from defending their hard-won rights. We have the freedoms and rights we fight for, and we lose those we do not defend.  

Government Employees Housing Scheme: The protracted process around the provision of housing for public servants is unacceptable. The Government Employee Housing Scheme (GEHS) came into existence as per the prescript of Resolution 7 of 2015. Our position remains that public servants should be provided affordable houses through a scheme that is not linked to the exploitative banking system. Workers should be provided housing through their pension money in the GEPF. We want the Minister of DPSA Senzo Mchunu to expedite the process and ensure that the contract with SA Home loans is terminated and a new viable vehicle that will administer the housing scheme is established.

The National Senior Certificate examination-The CEC noted the impact that COVID-19 has had on the schooling year. Students from poor backgrounds will be highly affected and, therefore, we agree with SADTU that the Department of Basic Education needs to delay the start of examinations to make sure that everybody is accommodated.

Retrenchments- Many workers find themselves facing retrenchment in the wake of the COVID-19 crises. The CCMA is inundated with section 189 notices and employers are using the COVID-19 crises to lay off workers even if their companies have not suffered. COSATU demands that government forces all employers who have received government support through UIF and other mechanisms must place a moratorium on retrenchments.

On the SABC Board: The CEC restated the federation’s call for the SABC Board to step down. The board’s misguided approach targeting workers is unacceptable. The SABC management was exposed by our affiliate Communication Workers Union at the CCMA for presenting a misleading document that they used to justify their decision to retrench workers. It is obvious that they have been telling a heap of sensational lies to the public all along. We demand their immediate removal and the abandonment of the Section 189 application to allow a coherent turnaround strategy that will have the endorsement of all stakeholders.

Telkom retrenchments and purges: The meeting condemned the ongoing retrenchments that have seen 2000 workers lose their jobs over a period of twelve months, with 220 more on the firing line. We the denounce the sinister plan to purge union shop stewards by the management that paid itself millions in remuneration last year. Once more, it is Telkom employees who are being sacrificed in the name of profits. We offer our full support to workers at Telkom and we remain ready to lead the fight against this intransigent and exploitative management. Workers are faced with two primary choices: to accept conditions as they exist or accept the responsibility for changing them. The time to fight back is now!

Amendment of Section 189 of the LRA: After reflecting on the current state of retrenchments, the CEC concluded that the fundamentals of our labour market policy are not sound and that the overall thrust of the legislative framework remains inadequate. The federation demands the amendment of section 189 of the LRA so that when employers wish to retrench, employers have to negotiate with workers. COSATU wants compulsory third party intervention prior to retrenchments taking place in an event the union and the employer fail to reach consensus during their retrenchment negotiations. Employers should not be allowed to retrench until this process is complete. Furthermore, the severance package of one week for every year of service should be increased to one month of every year of service.

Call for tighter insolvency laws- COSATU demands the tightening of insolvency laws to alleviate the effects of liquidations on workers and their financial security. Unions and workers must be informed timeously of any financial difficulties being faced by the business and any possible liquidation at the time that it is contemplated or threatened. Any application for provisional liquidation must be served upon the union and the workers. This application must prove that there are no alternatives to the liquidation, which would keep the business going and would save jobs. Also, the employer must negotiate with unions. If the company is indeed forced to liquidate, the workers and employers’ contributions to medical aid and retirement funds should not form part of the liquated businesses. In respect of wages and other benefits, workers should be ranked above the secured creditors

Business Rescue- The meeting condemned the self-serving conduct of Business rescue practitioners especially in the case of Edcon. The Federation demands an amendment of the Companies Act, of 2008 that deals with Business Rescue so that it can introduce more stringent regulations. Reports have indicated that some business rescue practitioners were working from outside the country and they are allowed to set their own inflated remuneration. This business restructuring model has a very poor success rate of 33%, and workers are its biggest victims.

On unresolved Legislation: The CEC has expressed its unhappiness over President Ramaphosa’s failure to sign the PIC Amendment Bill and the government’s failure to implement the Unemployment Insurance Amendment Act.

The PIC Amendment Bill was passed by Parliament in March 2019 but a year and a half later the President has failed to sign it into law or to refer it back to Parliament if he believes that it has not met Constitutional muster.  The PIC Amendment Bill is one of the most critical tools in the fight against corruption it ensures that workers’ hard-earned money is invested in a manner that benefits workers and not in dubious scams. 

Parliament passed and the President assented the Unemployment Insurance Amendment Act in 2017 and the Labour Laws Amendment Act in 2018.   The Labour Laws Amendment Act provides for all workers the right to paid parental and adoption leave.  The UI Amendment Act provides for public servants to be protected by the UIF in the event of dismissal.  This addition of 1.2 million contributors to the UIF will be a massive boost to the UIF, help ensure its sustainability and enable it to continue providing relief to millions of workers who have lost and will lose wages and jobs.

To date, the National Treasury, the Departments of Public Service and Administration, and the Department of Employment and Labour have refused to abide by the UI and LL Amendment Acts.  They have refused to allow public servants their legal rights to paid parental and adoption leave or to honour their obligations to contribute towards the UIF.  This is unacceptable and points to the reactionary and careless behaviour of this administration. The government must stop abusing the rights of workers and also testing their patience.

2.    Socio-economic

National Treasury– The CEC has concluded that the National Treasury has mutated into our own International Monetary Fund with its insistence on failing neoliberal policies and unpardonable mismanagement of our economy. Treasury is not just innocently delusional by implementing its wrong-headed and cartoonish ideas to fix the economy (like suffocating an economy that they are trying to resuscitate). But it is a fundamentally dishonest and ideologically extreme organisation that has bottomless contempt for workers and the poor. The National Treasury’s current policies perpetuate racism because they punish the poor black majority while protecting the inherited privileges of the white minority.

The ANC is responsible for the current crisis perpetuated by National Treasury because in its last Policy Conference, it rejected a proposal for the Presidency to have the authority to override the Treasury’s budget and reaffirmed the Treasury’s independence as a core institution of determining a budget.

National Treasury’s economic programmes reflect the dominant political forces within the government and the implementation of conservative economic policies favouring the moneyed class at the expense of the SMMEs and the working class is a political programme reflecting the balance of class forces within the ANC led government.

The conservative wing of the ANC is winning the policy fight and a political pushback is needed if the Nasrec resolutions are to be implemented.

Economic Stimulus-President Ramaphosa’s initial R500 billion stimulus is inadequate and is not as strong as his language about the economic threat. His prescription did not live up to his diagnosis. We call on him to honour his commitments when he announces an economic recovery plan.

Economic Recovery Plan-We expect a drastic economic recovery plan that must include the following:

·         A bold R1 trillion stimulus plan.

·         Reviewing the excessive lending criteria imposed by banks on the R200 billion loan guarantee scheme that has seen 37% of applicants rejected.

·         Further repo rate cuts by the South Reserve Bank and commercial banks adjusting their lending rates beyond the cuts provided for by SARB.The government cannot continue to reward financial manipulation instead of economic productivity. COSATU wants the government to act to protect homeowners from bank attachments.

·         Banks and other lenders to extend loan repayment holidays to struggling consumers and businesses and debt forgiveness for those consumers who have lost wages and jobs and businesses in the danger of collapsing.

·         Fast-tracking the Infrastructure Programme, investments that can create jobs and unlock economic activity in these sectors, ports, freight and passenger rail, energy, agriculture, and water.

·         Unlocking the mechanisms to increase Impact Investments from the current 2% up to the 10% provided for under existing regulations.  Impact investments must be directed towards investments that will create jobs and spur economic growth.

·         A mass public employment programme that will ensure all South Africans are guaranteed a minimum amount of work and that moves away from the cheap labour system of the Expanded and Community Public Works Programmes.

·         A Buy local campaign targeting not only public procurement but also the private sector and consumers.  This must include targeting key items for a buy local campaign as well as key large public and private sector procurers.  It must also include using tax incentives and private sector rewards systems to incentives local procurement.

·         The urgent adoption of the Eskom Social Compact and Implementation Plan by the Presidential Working Committee. The economy cannot grow without reliable and affordable energy supply.

Retirement Funds -The CEC reiterated its position that pensions remain workers deferred wages and should be invested in ways that benefit workers and should not be used to deal with government policy failures.

A corrupt government that pushes anti-worker and anti-poor policies cannot automatically count on the unconditional support of workers when it comes to the use of their pensions. Before the government talks about workers’ pensions, we demand to see real change in fighting corruption and also the implementation of pro-poor policies. We also reiterate our position for COVID-19 affected workers to be allowed access to a portion of their pensions.

State Bank: The Federation challenges the ANC government to deal with the high concentration in the banking sector, as per the ANC resolutions. In South Africa, five banks account for more than 90% of deposits, which is one of the most concentrated banking systems in the world. The COVID-19 outbreak exposed the shortcomings of our financial and economic infrastructure. Small businesses were forced to depend on “benevolent billionaires” for funding. We need a State Bank to help drive the government’s development agenda, including the funding of SMMEs.

Gender-Based Violence- The CEC expressed its worry about the rising levels of gender-based violence in the country. The government needs to introduce mandatory minimum sentences for gender-based violence cases to act as a deterrence. The meeting acknowledged the government’s commitment to ratifying Convention 190. Convention 190 was adopted by the International Labour Organisation on 10 June 2019.  It is intent is to eliminate violence and harassment at the workplace, especially against women.  When ratified and passed into law by South Africa it will be a key tool in the fight against the continuous violence and harassment that women face daily across workplaces in our nation.  We call on the government to move with speed to process it through Cabinet and table it in Parliament for endorsement.

3.    Politics

ANC- Alliance and Corruption-The terminal decline characterised by political rot and depravity continues to eat away at the soul of the ANC. The lack of political discipline and factionalism risks alienating the voters away from the ANC.

Workers are fast losing confidence in the willingness and capacity of the ANC to honestly fight corruption. They are starting to view the organisation’s public statements as nothing but phoney outrage for political propaganda purposes. It does not help for the ANC to issue statements of condemnation regarding the state of corruption in the country while reinstating people implicated in the VBS Looting Scandal and also promoting a former mayor facing corruption allegations to a higher position.  We call on the ANC NEC to reverse these inward-looking and politically reckless decisions.

The cancer of corruption is also weakening the Alliance and undermines its capacity to achieve its objectives and honour its commitments. It is all very well for the Alliance to be publicly militant about many transformation policies and set up goals like the implementation of NHI, Basic Income Grants, etc;  but if corruption continues, there will be no resources to implement any of those policies

We have noted efforts from President Ramaphosa to push back against corruption, but we can only judge the results and not the intentions. Aggressive prosecution is the only dependable vaccine to cure the virus of corruption, not speeches, letters, or public proclamations.

President Ramaphosa will not win the fight against corruption if he continues to be confrontation averse, he needs to start swinging a big axe if he wants workers to trust and believe in him. Half the purpose of the criminal justice system is deterrence, so law enforcement agencies need to target corrupt CEOs, Senior Managers, and Politicians and send them to prison

President Ramaphosa needs to know that workers remember his brave new frontier talk during his campaign for the Presidency and those are the standards by which he is measured. Workers feel that the President who campaigned in poetry is governing in prose and they are not impressed. The President must stop negotiating with criminals and use the only language they will understand which is prosecution and imprisonment.

General Strike: The CEC has resolved to develop a campaign against corruption and force the sixth administration to act to eradicate it. The stealing of TERS Fund money by employers, price-fixing by food retailers and pharmaceutical companies, and the PPEs procurement corruption represent an assault against workers and the poor. Workers are dying from public and private sector corruption. Strikes remain an effective way of expressing anger and frustration. Ours is a dire situation and it is time to fight back. The CEC has resolved to mobilise for a general strike to force the government to act against corruption on the 07 October 2020, on the World Day for Decent Work.

Workers will be failing if they do not force the President and his administration to act against corruption.

Local Government Elections-The Federation reflected on the current state of Municipalities and resolved that the current political proposal to postpone Local Government elections is unacceptable. Poor service delivery, corruption, and the frightening audit report by the Auditor-General (AG) Kimi Makwetu that showed that only 20 municipalities received clean audits out of the country’s 257 municipalities, makes this an impossibility. Postponing local government elections is tantamount to us being complicit to corruption. Voters have a right to express themselves and rate the performance of their councillors on the ballot. 

4.    International

·         Once again, the CEC  condemned the recent pronouncement by Zimbabwe’s ruling party ZANU-PF that the ZCTU and other CSOs in Zimbabwe are terrorist organizations. We further called upon the AU and SADC to act decisively against the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe.

·         The meeting noted the developments in Lesotho and is reiterating its concern that if the situation implodes further, it will destabilise the region and sabotage economic recovery.

·         As workers, we demand job creation and industrialisation across the continent. We cannot celebrate freedom until our neighbouring brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe and Swaziland are free.

  • We continue to support the international campaign against the annexation of the West Bank, and the Jordan Valley. In line with the COSATU resolution and international policy on Palestine, COSATU denounces the unilateral annexation and appeal to Israel to refrain from carrying out this unjust plan.
  • The Federation condemns the coup in Mali. Dictatorship must be dealt a blow wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head. The AU’s mission of the United States of Africa must be encouraged.


Issued by COSATU
Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)

Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794