Solidarity message from ITUC-COSATU Congress 2022

Greetings comrades, national office bearers, delegates, distinguished guests.

I appreciate the invitation to be with you and am honored to be a guest at your Congress. I bring you greetings on behalf of the ITUC.

I am the Director of the ITUC Just Transition Centre. We are a global center for unions, set up by ITUC to support unions in the struggle for a real just transition. It is a great privilege to be able to work with and learn from COSATU and its affiliates as you fight to keep and create good jobs, a developmental state and an Eskom that serve the public, and against privatization.

COSATU’s history and struggle for social justice continues to inspire our movement, also on just transition.

Our General Secretary Sharan Burrow deeply regrets not being here today but has asked me to give the following speech on her behalf.

Comrades and Friends

Congratulations on all your struggles for a more just, more inclusive and democratic South Africa, the world needs your leadership. 

I am sad not to be with you. I am making my way back from the United Nations General Assembly where the core of our demands and

 your demands for a new social contract –  our demands for jobs, quality jobs with fundamental rights and respect for collective bargaining,  universal social protection and just transition have been heard by the UN Secretary General. Antonio Guteress launched a Global Accelerator for jobs, social protection and just transition. Placing the ILO with workers and employers in the lead he also called on all agencies and UN country Directors to assist.

The central objectives include;

–          400 millions decent jobs created, esp. in the green, care and digital economy

–          4 billion people covered by social protection floors

–          Just transition for all

The ITUC has added a target of formalising 1 billion informal jobs.

We know there are jobs in care – health, education, child care and aged or community care and we want all nations to join the global alliance for care – to invest in care

We know there are jobs in infrastructure so badly needed to service our communities and we know there are jobs in climate transitions, from road to rail, from private to public transportation, and in all forms of green energy from hydrogen to solar and wind power.  

We are proud of COSATU’s fight for a real just transition and your demands for a national climate jobs plan. These are the strategic plans we need for the fight for just transitions in all nations.

But we also need universal social protection. Without social protection we have no resilience against global shocks. Essential public services, pensions and basic incomes for those without jobs, like the basic income grant for which COSATU is fighting, is well supported globally. There is a massive 87% support for the provision of affordable healthcare and 87% affordable access to education with nearly equal support for measures to protect peoples’ incomes.

Our global polling tell us that with the convergence of crisis including historic levels of inequality, the climate emergency with extreme weather events creating loss of lives, homes and livelihoods, the pandemic and now the inflationary spikes in energy and food prices people are living in despair.

People are fearful for the future and social and industrial unrest is growing in every country. Two thirds – 66% of people – are worried about their jobs. And we have a rampant inflation crisis where every second household (51%) say income is falling behind the cost of living. In fact 76% say that their income is stagnating or falling behind their monthly bills.

The global model of economy is not working for working people. Governments must act to end corporate greed and stop companies profiteering. With price gouging driving up prices and profit and inflations undermining economic growth and jobs we must see a major shift in orthodox economics. The business practices of today are predominantly based on dehumanising exploitation in supply chains debasing the dignity of decent work and destroying the stability of our planet as the race for profit expands.

We congratulate COSATU on your determination to fight for justice and a more inclusive economy, one that will address the energy crisis and the climate threat with just transition measures to protect and grow jobs.

And people are on your side when 66% of people are worried about climate change and more than three in every four people (76%) believe workers have a right to know how employers are climate proofing working places.

We understand and support your fight against corruption and violence. Our societies are further divided when the rule of law does not protect everyone.

We look forward to the outcomes of your Congress discussions in the lead up to the ITUC Global Congress in November. The demand for a new social contract is a priority and your contribution to what must become a global fight for workplace  justice along with the demands of governments everywhere to put people and plate first. Therefore the New Social  Contract must realise 6 key demands:

1)       Jobs – investment in climate-friendly jobs with just transition;

2)      Rights – compliance  with the promise of the ILO Centenary Declaration of rights and protections for all workers now including occupational health and safety, irrespective of employment arrangements.

 3)    Just wages –  minimum living wages, equal pay with a marked increase in  collective bargaining

4)      Universal social protection with a global social protection fund for establishing systems in the the poorest countries;

5)      Equality  – equality of gender and race, including a world of work free from gender-based violence and harassment; and

6)      Inclusion with a  a rights-based development model realised through multilateral reform that and the realization of the SDG’s and the Paris climate agreement  with global architecture that effectively addresses the threats to our peace and common security.

A new social contract with shared prosperity and just transition will help stabilise communities and economies generating a common security that addresses poverty, exclusion and help create more peaceful coexistence.

In the words of UN Secretary Antonio Guterres “ the divergence between developed and developing nations – between North and South – between the privileged and the rest – is becoming more dangerous by the day”

Unions are in the frontlines of a struggle for peace and democratic rights and freedoms as the basis for a shared prosperity that leaves no one behind.

I salute the power and the courage of union members in South Africa.


Sharan Burrow.

For more information: 

Samantha Smith (she/her)


Just Transition Centre

Mobile: +47 45 02 21 49