COSATU Central Executive Committee statement

1.    Introduction

This CEC reflected and noted that this Central Executive Committee meeting took place on the eve of our 35th Anniversary on the 1st of December 2020. From its very founding, the federation committed itself to unite all workers, fight oppression and economic exploitation, and connect trade union struggles with community struggles.

As we mark this milestone, we shall continue to be a leading agent of militant and progressive trade unionism in South Africa, and also embrace working class internationalism going forward. It is not surprising that our founding President Elijah Bharayi was conferred with an honourary doctorate by UNISA.

2.    Organisationally

State of the Federation-The Central Executive Committee, in its assessment of the work done since the beginning of the year 2020 has acknowledged that despite difficult challenges facing workers across the board, the federation remains stable under the circumstances.

Members First: The meeting noted that progress has been registered so far, in particular, in strengthening organisational machinery, to place our members at the centre of everything we do, as mandated by the 13th COSATU National Congress. However, we recognise and note that alongside the solid advances that we are making are some shortcomings and challenges that still remain to be overcome in the coming year and beyond. Therefore, in addition to the identified new tasks, these shall constitute part and parcel of our new programme

2021 Year of the Local: The CEC resolved to declare Year 2021, as the “Year of the Local” that will focus on building the organisation at a workplace level. We shall use our ongoing recruitment campaign to anchor this enormous task of building the organisation on the ground. This means that the federation and its unions will focus on waging real struggles at the workplace level. We shall be focused on rebuilding our locals to reflect the structural economic changes that is also associated with the changing workplace organisation and mode of work.

Solidarity and mass mobilisation: The Federation shall be introducing a systematic programme on ideological and organisational education and training. We will also develop a mass mobilisation programme geared at responding to the unfolding socioeconomic crisis involving progressive mass-based organisations in particular and progressive civil society structures in general. Both the global capitalist crisis and COVID 19 exposed the crisis of capitalism. Therefore, our task is to unite the working class as a whole The CEC encouraged all COSATU unions to commit themselves to pledge solidarity with the struggles of other unions, in particular other COSATU affiliated unions.

CWU and NEHAWU Strikes- The CEC offered its full support to the workers at SABC who are pushing back against retrenchments under the leadership of our affiliated union CWU and other unions in the institutions. SABC is too important an institution to allow the reactionary board members and managers to gut like we have seen other state institutions. If we are to have a developmental state and have real participatory democracy, SABC needs to be strengthened and not weakened.

We also offer total support to the Community Health Workers who are currently on strike under the leadership of our affiliate NEHAWU. The unity and resilience of these workers is commendable and exemplary. We call on employers to accede to the fair and legitimate demands of these workers.

October 07 Strike-The CEC recognised that our programme of action was ground-breaking from a political point of view, as it brought together for the first time, workers across trade union federations, marking an important step for the unity of workers. Workers heeded the call, and we shall build on this going forward.

May Day: The May Day celebrations will continue to be decentralised all across the country with the National Celebrations taking place in North West Province.

Bargaining Conference, Retrenchments and Tool Kit-The watershed Collective Bargaining, Organising and Campaigns Conferenceheld on the 11th – 13th November 2020 produced a Strategic directive for our Bargaining, Organising and Campaigns strategy moving forward.

The conference noted the challenges faced by collective bargaining both in the public and the private sector and resolved that bargaining councils must be further be strengthened to grapple with the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. With many jobs on the line, the conference resolved to develop a Retrenchment tool kit that will ensure that retrenchments are indeed the last resort for companies 

Public Service: The meeting once again praised the sterling work done by public sector workers to not just fight COVID-19 but to continue to deliver the much-needed services, even as they suffer from unwarranted attacks by the current administration. The failure to pay workers their increases and the proposed wage freeze is an insult to these workers. Collective bargaining is a constitutional right, yet this government has gone out of its way to undermine it by abandoning a legally binding agreement and trying to unilaterally impose a wage freeze until 2024. This indifferent attitude will have huge political costs during next year’s local government elections. Underpaying public servants will simply spur a brain drain of highly sought-after doctors, nurses and teachers and further weaken the state’s capacity to deliver quality public services.

Proposed Action Plan on the 4th of December 2020

In defence of Collective Bargaining in Public Service and the private sector, the CEC has resolved to immediately undertake the following steps:

·         The CEC will lead a protest action/sit-in at the Union Buildings on the 4th December 2020, to demand a response from the Presidency on the memorandum submitted on the 7th October 2020. This include the call for government lead by example by complying with ILO conventions and respect collective bargaining.

·         We shall write to the ILO urging it to immediately register a protest with the South African government’s breach of Convention 154, the Right to organize and Collective Bargaining Convention and Convention 87 on the Freedom of Association. The ILO must demand some level of accountability from the South African government

·         All our provincial structures will continue holding Demonstrations and Lunch-time Pickets at the departments, institutions, and workplaces where memorandums were submitted.

The CEC further condemned BUSA for its anti-worker stance in demanding that the government freeze Public sector wages.

3.    Socio-economic

Impact of Austerity Budget Cuts- In dealing with this current crisis, the South African government has resorted to increasing austerity measures and as a result inequality has widened. The increase in inequality means working families’ purchasing power is significantly diminished. The recent mid-term budget policy statement has continued on this trajectory. This posture of government threatens to lead South Africa into a deeper depression which will make attempts to resuscitate the economy virtually impossible. These austerity measures taken by Treasury also threaten to weaken key labour, as well as other state institutions such Hawks as well as the Office of the Public Protector. Specifically worrying for COSATU are the budget cuts to the CCMA. These cuts have been so severe that the CCMA is struggling to deliver on its legislated mandate. Already the CCMA is starting to feel the impact with its capacity reduced, including closing offices for walk-in cases and conciliation cases.

This is taking place as workers are already experiencing a wave of retrenchments salary cuts and other labour abuses. They will now be faced with a massively reduced CCMA that will be so starved of resources that it will be unable to help thousands of frustrated workers. The Federation has raised this at Parliament and will be requesting an urgent meeting with National Treasury to demand that these cuts be reversed. We demand a budget that will be responsive to the needs of the workers and the poor.

State-Owned-Enterprises-The CEC expressed concern about the continued deterioration of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs). Many of our SOEs are in varying stages of collapse.  We are disappointed that the Presidential State-Owned Enterprises Council (PSEC) is yet to present any convincing plan to reposition or stabilise state-owned enterprises.

The fact that very little has been done to fix the issues raised by the Auditor General and that some of these institutions like SABC are pushing for retrenchments is offensive and scandalous.

Government needs to work with labour and business to develop clear road maps to take these SOEs out of the ICU, reposition them to adjust to the changes taking place in their sectors and enable them to get back on a sustainable trajectory.  Retrenching workers cannot be accepted.  A caring government would not throw thousands of workers onto the unemployment line.  Alternatives must be found for workers whose jobs are at risk.

Eskom Social Compact-The meeting welcomed the adoption of the Eskom Social Compact. As a key part of the comprehensive package of economic recovery interventions, we call on social partners to sign it and start the implementation process in order to save jobs.

Economic Recovery Plan-The CEC has resolved to further unpack the economic recovery plan at the Federation’s February CEC. COSATU in the interim will engage in the implementation of the plan at the economic recovery leadership team at NEDLAC.

Corruption and Wasteful Expenditure-The CEC called for more arrests and conviction of criminals who continue to steal inside and outside of government. The message to be sent should be that no one is above the law.

We reiterate our call for centralisation of public procurement of large items, the introduction of an online open public procurement platform, the establishment of rapid response anti-corruption courts, and most critically the banning of Politically Exposed Persons and their spouses and children from doing business with the state.  The outright hostility by government to the latter is indicative of a leadership that has lost its moral compass.

COVID-19: The meeting expressed concern over the notable rise in COVID-19 infections and called on all South Africans to continue to take this deadly virus seriously. This is no time to be complacent because any reckless behaviour puts both the lives and the economy at risk. We welcome the extension of the R350 long term unemployment grant, and we hope that this will lay a foundation for the adoption of the basic income grant.

4.    Politics

ANC and NDR in Crisis: The Central Executive Committee has concluded that our National Democratic Revolution has entered a difficult period. The epicentre of this major challenge is within the ANC that is mired in corruption scandals, public bickering and is gradually experiencing declining support amongst the people. The meeting lamented the poor state of organisational and personal discipline in the ranks of the ANC, and the lack of decisive action by the elected officials. The on-going challenges of unity and cohesion especially amongst leadership at all levels of the organisation and between the organisational leadership and those deployed in government is a problem. The lack of political will and decisive strategic leadership in implementing the more challenging socio-economic resolutions from the Nasrec conference is deeply worrying. This combined with the austerity measures that are being implemented by its administration has put the NDR in a precarious position.

ANC NGC: We have noted the release of the ANC National General Council (NGC) documents and we shall convene a Political Commission to help us develop a posture on the documents and respond comprehensively. The Political Commission will also help us to develop a Minimum Programme going forward. This mid-term evaluation is important, and it should focus and respond to the pressing organisational challenges, especially on socioeconomic policies. We remain hopeful that the NGC will signal a turning point with regard to internal discipline, the decisiveness of the leadership on organisational and socioeconomic policy matters, the fight against corruption, relations with other components of the Alliance and in taking forward the mandate of Nasrec

Alliance Summit: The CEC is looking forward to the upcoming Alliance Summit that was decided by the Alliance Political Council meeting and we hope it will take place before Local Government elections, next year. This summit is necessary to discuss the content and character of the National Democratic Revolution. The current implementation of austerity measures reflects a troubling development and what amounts to strategic deviation. Therefore, the nature of the contradiction is increasingly becoming more than just tactical and political issues, to some extent they have become strategic and class contradictions that also relate to the ideological contestation of the content and objectives of the NDR.

We view these attacks on collective bargaining and suppression of the trade union activity as a way of using a crisis to break the spine of the trade unions and reverse Nasrec policy outcomes. These attacks are evident both in the public and private sector. However, the fact that it is a democratic government led by a liberation movement that is part of our own alliance perpetrating these attacks, makes the case even more shameful. In this regard, the CEC warned that, the ANC government is abandoning/dishonouring the Freedom Charter and is involved in the erosion of the hard-won democratic gains since 1994.

The Freedom Charter says; “There Shall Be Work and Security. All who work shall be free to form trade unions, to elect their officers and to make wage agreements with their employers”.

In the RDP document, the ANC said; “Our history has been a bitter one dominated by colonialism, racism, apartheid, sexism and repressive labour policies……Central to building the economy is the question of workers rights. Past policies of labour exploitation and repression must be redressed and the imbalances of power between employers and workers corrected. The basic rights to organise and to strike must be entrenched. And negotiations and participative structures at national, industry and workplace level must be created to ensure that labour plays an effective role in the reconstruction and development of our country….we need an economy which will eliminate poverty, low wages and extreme inequalities in wages and wealth generated by apartheid system, meet the basic needs and thus ensure every South African has a decent living standard and economic activity”

Despite the occasional rhetoric around radical economic transformation, the country is now being handed over to neoliberal Western institutions like the IMF, World Bank, etc. What we are seeing now is the ANC and its government spitting on the workers and going rogue.

This is a development that will not only undermine our national self-determination as a country but will put into question the ANC’s historical commitment to a progressive and transformative vision. Workers demand and deserve answers about this the direction of the ANC government that is starting to wage an offensive against workers through retrenchments and wage freezes.

This cannot be tolerated because the aspirations of the workers and the working class have to be reflected in an ANC government. If it rejects or dishonours these aspirations, it is threatening the very foundations of the Alliance and making it redundant and unnecessary.

Given the political significance of 2021, COSATU shall be Convening its Central Committee (CC) and Provincial Congresses as per our Constitutional obligations to assess, clarify and deepen our perspectives as we finalise a clear way forward regarding the many challenges facing workers.

Towards that end, COSATU shall be reviewing its Medium-Term Programme, formerly known as the 2015 Plan and its Economic Policy Document, the Growth Path to Full Employment as key cornerstones guiding our approach to the many complex issues we face.

The CEC was briefed about the developments in LIMPOPO and supports the positions taken by our provincial structure there and will be engaging with Alliance partners on the way forward.

5.    Delayed Legislation

 PIC Amendment Bill and Political Party Funding Act-The CEC has expressed concern over an increasing tendency by the President and his Executive towards undermining Parliament.  Parliament has passed several important Bills only for the Presidency to simply ignore them or for departments to delay indefinitely their implementation. This will lead us to a constitutional crisis.  If the President does not want to sign a Bill, he must refer it back to Parliament.  But he can only do so if the Bill is unconstitutional or the public participation processes were undermined. 

Parliament passed the Public Investment Corporation Amendment Bill in March 2019 and the Political Party Funding Bill in 2018.  To date the Presidency has not signed the PIC Amendment Bill.  Yet this is a critical intervention towards dealing with the massive allegations of corruption at the PIC during the era of state capture.

The President signed the Political Party Funding Bill but failed to announce a commencement date.  We are now approaching local elections. The government cannot be allowed to continue to undermine Parliament.  The Presidency must move with speed to the signing, enacting and implementation of legislation.  Lethargy is not a virtue


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