The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] on the 7th – 8th December 2020 convened its fourth Central Executive Committee [CEC] meeting of its 11th National Congress.
The CEC received reports covering all four pillars of the union which includes international, political, socioeconomic and organizational assessments and also assessed progress in the implementation of the 2020 programme of action and adopted a 2021 programme of action.
The meeting took place a week after the national union launched its national program on the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence and Children Abuse. The lockdown has increased GBV cases as victims had to be in constant contact with the perpetrators. The national union will implement its program with the aim of exposing this scourge wherever it rears its ugly head and create awareness about the hardships faced by women. As part of the broader gender struggle we welcome and support the proposal of the National Minimum Wage Commission to equalise the wages of domestic workers with other employees.
The CEC also takes place while many parts of the country are experiencing a resurgence of the coronavirus. The recent infection rate reveals that the numbers have been skyrocketing while the government still does not seem to be ready to decisively deal with the virus. Workers are still faced with intermittent supply of Personal Protective Clothing (PPEs) and lack of compliance to the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act by employers. In this regard, NEHAWU will continue to monitor the work of health and safety committees in all workplaces including encouraging its members and workers not to work if their lives are in danger. The national union will continue to force the Department of Employment and Labour to continue with inspections and prosecute employers who are non-compliant. We will continue to call for training and additions of more inspectors by the department.
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has further exposed capitalism as a system that prioritises the few elites at the expense of majority which is the working class and the poor. Throughout the world capitalist countries have implemented interventions that have further plunged the working class into unimaginable crises that have led to massive job losses, salary cuts and cuts to social spending. However, a few elites have managed to amass more wealth by inflating prices of basic commodities and medical supplies. Furthermore, it is projected that world economies will contract and growth has been revised to 2% points downward from the April 2020 figures. Many countries are failing to attain pre-COVID-19 crises growth levels this will eventually lead to the widening of income inequalities, slow down demand which will ultimately lead to high levels of unemployment and poverty.
On the home front, National Treasury continues to lead an unrelenting attack on workers, the working class and the poor. Treasury has constantly prioritised containing the public-debt by cutting government spending which has resulted in the diminishing of the quality of service delivery and led to mass unemployment. Moreover, Treasury dismally failed to contain the growth of the public-debt as it kept on ballooning year after year, not least because of the increasing billions worth of tranches in bail-outs given to the ever rising number of the mismanaged state owned entities and overspending by some departments. At the same time, year after year, the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA) kept on reporting that at least about 10% of government’s budget is drained by corruption, irregular, wasteful and fruitless expenditures.
We refute the misguided assertion that the outbreak of the coronavirus has led to government not being able to honour the agreement. When the outbreak took place in the country the economy was already falling into a recession, following consecutive contractions in the last quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2020 because of very low rates of private sector investment compounded by declining government spending. The CEC noted that on the 8th December the GDP rebounded by 13.5% for third quarter as lockdown restrictions are being relaxed. Compared with the same period last year, GDP contracted by 6%, the second straight quarter of decline.
Public servants continue to be frustrated by the refusal by government to implement the last leg of Resolution 1 of 2018 especially clauses 3.3 which speaks to salary increases. This has reduced these workers to financial hardships while basic commodities continue to rise on a daily basis. NEHAWU reported the South African government to the International Labour Organization (ILO) for its attack on collective bargaining, however, the government especially Treasury remains steadfast in its refusal to pay workers their salary increases which were due on the 1st April 2020. In this regard, NEHAWU working with other Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) public sector unions will implement a program of rolling mass actions to aggressively fight the onslaught on workers, austerity measures, defend collective bargaining including the recently announced 3 year wage free in the public service. To this end, NEHAWU will start with preparations for marches on the day of the presentation of the budget in February 2021.
The CEC noted the continuous disregarding of the manifesto commitments made by the African National Congress (ANC) during the 2019 General National Elections. All the commitments that were used to galvanise support for ANC are ignored by the 6th administration of our government. This started with the release to the public of an economic policy document by Treasury which effectively negated the commitments outlined in the 2019 manifesto. At that time, NEHAWU called on the ANC to reign in the Minister of Finance, however, our calls fell on deaf ears. Furthermore, the ANC also kept mum when government made its intention clear on the 24th February 2020 that they had no intention to honour the last leg of Resolution 1 of 2018. The CEC issued a stern warning to the ANC that if still wants the support of workers then it must immediately implement in full the commitments of the 2019 manifesto and force its deployees to government to implement all binding collective agreements.
The CEC reiterated the national union’s call for the Integrity Commission of the ANC to be empowered to reinforce its authority and competency to guarantee the ANC’s moral standing in society. Moreover, the CEC supported the call that says those implicated in criminal activities should be directed by the National Executive Committee (NEC) to step aside from all activities of the ANC. The national union holds a strong view that keeping such comrades in our midst creates an impression that the movement condones corrupt elements and it shields them from accounting.
The CEC noted the outcomes of the US elections and its implications for broader geopolitics. The defeat of the right wing Donald Trump is a positive step for many Americans. However, doubts remains for on any serious prospects for major policy changes that will advance the social demands of ordinary Americans. We remain critical of the US administration’s position on the illegal economic embargo against Cuba, the freedom of the Palestinians, the interference of the US in South American countries like Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela. We denounce the imperialist American foreign policy on these countries. NEHAWU will intensify the campaign to lift the blockade on Cuba and sanctions on Venezuela including general lifting of sanctions on other countries embargoed by the US.
Furthermore, we will pay close attention to elections in Latin America in 2021 in Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Argentina.
The recent sell out of the Palestinian cause by certain corrupt Arab League regimes come as no surprise. Our analysis has always predicted the possibility of Zionist Israel rapprochement with the Arab league member states, within the orbit of US foreign policy. It came as no surprise that under US instruction the UAE has openly embraced apartheid Israel. NEHAWU supports the calls for more concrete relations between Palestine and South Africa including the twining of cities and towns. Such partnerships are beneficial to both Palestinians and South Africans. The CEC noted the cosying up of the Zimbabwean state to Zionist Israel and obscure trade relations between the two countries centred on diamond trade. No wonder the mining monopolies in Zimbabwe are the most vicious and exploitative of all operations. We call on the people of Zimbabwe to reject the betrayal of Palestinians by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The central executive committee reiterated the support of the Nomination of the Cuban Henry Reeve medical brigade for the Nobel peace prize.
In the year 2020 workers have been at the receiving end of unsafe working conditions, attack on their right to bargain and to strike including the crippling effects of austerity measures. However, workers had a fighting red union in their corner which has relentlessly fought employers to desist from exploitative tendencies and to halt the onslaught directed at reversing the hard won gains of workers. NEHAWU led many mass actions in the current year aimed at doing away with withering away of workers’ rights. In the next year, we will come back much stronger to push back the onslaught by employers especially from our own democratically elected government.
As part of fighting for decent salaries and improved working conditions the national union will convene bargaining forums at regional, provincial and national levels in February 2021 to consolidate its mandate for 2021 bargaining cycle. Furthermore, the health subcommittee will be convened to discuss the threat currently faced by the National Health Insurance (NHI), the refusal by government to absorb Community Healthcare Workers (CHWs) and the impact of COVID-19.
The national union is looking forward to the celebrations of the centenary of the South African Communist Party (SACP), the convening of the COSATU 7th Central Committee and the African National Congress (ANC) 5th National General Council (NGC).
Lastly, NEHAWU would like to take this opportunity to wish well its members and workers in general including the public the working class and the poor in particular during the holidays, we wish them all a merry Christmas and a prosperous new year. We hope they will all have great and enjoyable festive holidays. The national union reminds all our people to continue to exercise and follow best practices and ways to avoid getting infected by the coronavirus including staying at home, observing social distance, wearing masks that covers both the mouth and nose, and washing hands with soap for 20 seconds or using alcohol based sanitisers. As we approach the festive season we appeal to our people to avoid crowded events and gatherings.
Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968; December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969; Khaya Xaba (NEHAWU National Spokesperson) at 082 455 2500 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org