Address by COSATU General Secretary Solly Phetoe to SACCAWU July 2023 Extended OCCBU Meeting


COSATU is honoured for this opportunity to address the SACCAWU Extended Organising, Campaigns and collective Bargaining Unite specially after our National Day of Action and after a settlement of a very prolonged MAKRO Strike which had many casualties, and we hope that the dismissed workers will be reinstated.  It is important we maintain the pressure in this regard, ensure those workers are reinstated and when they are that we claim this victory for SACCAWU.

COSATU held its ordinary CEC on the 29-31 May 2023 were the report and assessment of the MAKRO strike was discussed and the CEC declared MAKRO management actions toward workers as a “class war” and resolved to intensify solidarity support to striking workers including mobilising for humanitarian support.  Soon thereafter the strike was settled but the federation is still bitter and waying options on dealing with WALMART behaviour because we are of the view that their unbecoming behaviour wherever they operate need serious attention.

We were also briefly alerted to a possible dispute at PICK n PAY and we are eagerly awaiting information in that regard.  We are there to support our Affiliate, SACCAWU.  We need a strong SACCAWU as SACCAWU needs a strong COSATU.  We are there for SACCAWU to support your campaigns.

Comrades, employers have become emboldened and this amongst other reasons is caused by the fragmentation of labour and our inability to unite workers even those who work within the same company/institution but because they are employed by a different company, we tend to overlook them (outsource and labour broker workers).

There are many workers who are still unorganised especially in wholesale/retail, Hospitality and restaurant sectors which are in the scope of SACCAWU.

COSATU Programs

Comrades, as you will know COSATU held its 14th National Congress which was held on the 26-29 September 2022 and the congress adopted a five year program in a form of resolutions which we currently being implemented.


Unity of Workers – this is a very important program of the federation, the aim and objective is to unite all workers in Affiliates, among Affiliates and across all federations. But as you will know comrades, this is not an easy task but we are determined not fail.

Divided and or fragmented workers will always be exploited by employers and the capitalist.

Building of Unity and Cohesion

This relates to assistance required towards struggling and challenged COSATU unions particularly the industrial unions.

In this context, the Federation is tasked to intervene on union poaching and facilitate the implementation of the previous congress resolution on union Mergers and discuss the emerging challenge of organising throughout the value chain.

We now have in position of the ILO scoping research paper and recommendations by the researchers from UCT.  The report is to be processed by the organisational commission and their report will be considered by the CEC.  It will require serious introspection by Affiliates and a pathway to action as appropriate. 

Membership Recruitment

 The National Congress revisited the membership figures to be recruited and set a New target of 2.5 Million by 2035.

Comrades this is a very moderate target, I say this because statistics indicate that almost 70% of employed people across all economic sectors don’t belong to a union, meaning the four active Federations in the country including unaffiliated independent unions only organise 30% of the working people.

Another research on unions representation in workplaces/ Enterprise or institutions, shows that we represent either 50% or less.

All this shows that our work is cut-out comrades, we must take recruitment seriously.

On the 9th of June 2023 COSATU provinces Launched Red Friday, every Friday should be recruitment day, and for the recruitment to be successful, unions should avail resources and manpower.

Occupational Health and Safety

This is one of our long-standing campaigns which is not taken seriously but since after COVID 19 occupational health and safter had to be prioritised.

COSATU provinces working closely with Affiliates are expected to identify companies that don’t adhere to Health and Safety, and we hope SACCAWU is partaking in this campaign – less we forget about the incident at one of the stores wherein a workers was killed by a lift including rape incidents due to workers knocking off late with no provision of transport.

Defending Collective Bargaining

Comrades we have seen and experienced employers’ brutality and undermining of collective bargaining across all sectors.

We can not allow that to happen, we must fight until a bitter end.

Off- late not only do they undermine collective bargaining, the actual downgrade and or reduce existing benefits achieve through collective bargaining.

Fight Against Precariure form of Employment

Casualisation, part time, including Flexi timers, labour broker.

Comrades these forms of employment are prevalent in all the sectors SACCAWU organises in including in the public sector e.g. EPWP and CWP.


We should not and cannot tire to fight against corruption both in private and public sectors. Our focus should be ESKOM, PRASA, DOL on UIF and TERS corruption cases.

At the same time, we campaign for improved protection of whistle blowers.

Future Program

National Recruitment and Organising School.

The school is planned to be convened before end of 2023 it is meant to capacitate organisers and negotiators for better service delivery and effective recruitment.

Bargaining Council

The congress mandated the federation to compile a list of existing Bargaining Council with a view of assisting to strengthen them.

COSATU 38TH Anniversary

We agreed to have annual national celebration either in Gauteng or Mpumalanga for 2023.

International Solidarity campaign

We must intensify our solidarity campaigns with Cuba, eSwatini, Zimbabwe, Palestine, Western Sahara and Venezuela.

Fight Against GBVF

It’s an ongoing campaign that we must all support and drive at all levels, in particular the shopfloor.

Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value

Campaign against workplace discrimination and transformation of workplace

Comrades these are some of the prioritised programs for 2023 but they are not exhaustive.

National Minimum Wage

The NMW has been adjusted to R25.42 from March.  Farm workers and domestic workers have been equalised to it.  This has raised the wages of 6 million workers, including SACCAWU members.  We are however distressed by reports that 45% of employers continue to undermine the NMW.  We need campaigns on the ground to empower our members to report such employers and to tackle these employers.

We are engaging on the BCEA annual income threshold to ensure it is raised and that the labour rights, protections and benefits of all workers, in particular the poor, are protected.

In conclusion;

As Lenin puts it that “the strength of the working class lies in organisation. Unless the masses are organised, the proletariat is nothing. Organised—it is everything. Organisation means unity of action, unity in practical operations.

But every action is valuable, of course, only because   and insofar as it serves to push things forward and not back ward, insofar as it serves to unite the proletariat ideologically, to elevate, and not degrade, corrupt or weaken it. Organisation not based on principle is meaningless, and in practice converts the workers into a miserable appendage of the bourgeoisie in power”.