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Shopsteward Volume 26 No. 2

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  |  COSATU Speeches

Speech delivered by COSATU president at the KZN Shop Steward Council

11 September 2017

Comrades, we are meeting here today after a successful 6th Central Committee meeting of COSATU, the ANC's 5th National Policy Conference and the SACP's 14th National Congress.

The movement is passing through one of the most difficult periods since the 1994 democratic breakthrough. This includes internal divisions, existence of institutionalized factions which have compromised the ANC's ability to provide leadership to its structures, the alliance and society in general. The revolutionary morality of the ANC has been compromised to a point where conclusions about perceptions of its action or inaction against wrong doing and corruption get treated as truth.

We are also meeting at a time when the unemployment rate soared to 38% using the expanded definition. The trickle down economic policies or Neo - liberal policies have failed to protect more than 90% of the population of which 80% is black in particular from the greedy private shareholders, monopolies and oligopolies.

Companies have been sending section 189 retrenchment notices to unions and many sectors are already retrenching workers. At the same time, government departments, municipalities and parastatals have been freezing vacancies across the board.

This current merciless wave of job losses needs to be located within the historical evolution of South African capital which was mainly been facilitated through the alliance between white capital and the white colonial - apartheid state at deliberate and systemic exclusion of black people. The central aim of this institutionalized exclusion of black people was the provision of unskilled cheap labour at the service of a white economy.

This paradigm continues to this day , facilitated by a competition law which is predicated on the tenets of neo liberalism that include allowing mergers which facilitate job losses, and low penalties for companies that operate monopolies or oligopolies . The Reserve Bank continues to deepen this colonial legacy through allowing private banks to deny loans to companies that create jobs and where these banks provide loans which comes coupled with high interest rates that ultimately compromise the companies' and job creation capacity.

This institutionalized a business model for South African capital in general and white Monopoly Capital in particular to exclusively rely on the use of guaranteed cheap labour to sustain their high profits at all costs up to this day.

In this regard we must intensify our campaign against the Neo Liberal dogma which advocates for labour flexibility as a mantra to attracting investment in the economy.

The opposition has not blinked on exploiting the conditions to advance their regime change agenda as they submitted a vote of no confidence against the state president, the ANC successfully rejected this motion with 198 votes to 177 votes. However the reduced majority means that other than the 9 MPs who abstained, those who were absent including those who had died, some ANC MP may have voted with the opposition

This matter has exposed the deepening divisions inside the ANC and the movement as a whole and has had an impact of dividing the South African populace

All this means that the inherent crisis of capitalism has intersected with the crisis of organisational and political credibility threatening to impeach the movement out of power and has over the period also compromised the alliance and federation's hegemony amongst workers and the working class in general.

How has COSATU responded to these challenges?

The federation started by conducting self introspection and came to a conclusion that we were weak and adopted a programme of building the organisation on the ground based on leading workplace struggles and recruitment . Lenin taught us that "the strength of the working-class lies in organization. Unless the masses are organized, the proletariat is nothing. Organized--it is everything. Organization 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 backward, insofar as it serves to unite the proletariat ideologically, to elevate, and not degrade, corrupt or weaken it."

In our 6th Central Committee we adopted a programme which is based on the following pillars: (a) Pillar 1: Building unity within the federation, within unions and with other federations based on the principle of One Country, One Federation. (b) Pillar 2: Back to Basics Campaign - Building the fighting capacity of COSATU through Campaigns and workplace struggles (c) Pillar 3: Building the Alliance and its individual components to deepen and advance a radical National Democratic Revolution as a direct route to Socialism (d) Pillar 4: Heightening the struggle against Neo Liberalism. (e) Pillar 5: Shaping the battle of ideas and asserting the hegemony of revolutionary working class ideas using education, organizing and media Work.

1. Pillar 1: Building unity within the federation, within unions and with other federations based on the principle of One Country, One Federation.

We have prioritised our unions because we have noted that some of our unions continue to be confronted with internal organisational weaknesses and acute divisions. Your unions are not paying subscriptions to COSATU and this is making it impossible for COSATU to implement programmes or to assist unions which needs support. The most glaring of these weaknesses are to be found in CEPPWAWU, in SAMWU, in SATAWU. It is disturbing to report that some of the leaders of these unions are refusing to meet with COSATU NOBs and some even go around lying and or report inaccurately about COSATU.

The recent CEC took a decision that the federation must now enter into a phase of addressing the membership of unions directly. This will include reporting back on the work we have done as COSATU including setting up a process leading to these unions going to their constitutional meetings in the form of NECs and or congresses to elect new leadership and ensure filling of vacancies where necessary.

This work will be taking place concurrently with a heightened recruitment programme

2. Pillar 2: Back to Basics Campaign - Building the fighting capacity of COSATU through Campaigns and workplace struggles

Our unions are currently involved in various work place programmes and are prioritizing bargaining programmes since this is a bargaining season. Already unions such the NUM have been on streets against retrenchments and work -place health and safety. It can be reported that as a result of this consistent work, thousands of workers are resigning from AMCU and employers are holding their forms to join NUM.

The bargaining season is in the context in which the country is in a recession, where business is in a divestment mode and when retrenchments are on the increase. However, the reason why business is not investing in the economy cannot be the problem of workers.

Food price inflation is expected to average 7.7% and 5.4% in 2017 and 2018, compared with 7.4% and 5.2% previously, and unchanged at 5.5% in 2019. Salary increases for 2017 should not be less than inflation plus. We urge employers to adequately compensate employees for their labour without which this economy will collapse further. The workers are the ones' oiling this economy.

The CEC agreed that demands on wages should consider the following:

a) The increase in wages must not be less than inflation plus 5 points. Most workers earn little and supplement their salaries with credit cards and other personal loans.
b) The prime rate is currently 10.25 which determine the price of credit in the economy. This rate should be used as a benchmark for salary increases and not only the inflation rate of 5.1% as at June 2017.
c) The State must buy out all factories closing down to save jobs
d) To put a stop on employers' attempts to destroy bargaining councils
e) The public sector must prepare holistically together
f) CCMA took that decision on putting the council on administration and we must propose a way forward to resolve the situation
g) We must fastrack the amendments implementation on the LRA and parties represented
h) COSATU to cover affiliates' struggles given the season of negotiations.
i) To commission a study on the impact of the fourth revolution
j) The impact of poultry jobs losses and also AGOA aagreements must be investigated thoroughly.

At the same time, as the federation we are receiving applications from unions which want to be admitted as new affiliates of COSATU. When others such as FAWU and SASAWU are being bought to leave the federation, thousands of workers instruct their unions to affiliate to COSATU and we are now in a process of getting them admitted.

3. Pillar 3: Building the Alliance and its individual components to deepen and advance a radical National Democratic Revolution as a direct route to Socialism

This programme has been delayed by the fact that alliance meetings have not been taking place. We want a reconfiguration of the Alliance which will be an alliance of equals which have political authority to deploy, keep deployees accountable, support them and recalling them . An alliance that links state power with organisational and mass power on the ground in its operations
We are continuing to write letters to the ANC and other alliance partners to convene the alliance secretariat and the alliance political council before the 54th National Conference of the ANC. We have asked for a bilateral meeting with the SACP, to discuss the recent resolutions of the SACP Congress and the take forward our joint programmes. The SACP has called for action against the banks on the 15th September and we are calling on workers to join the marches in numbers. We will use this as a build up programme leading to the 27th September, which will be COSATU' National Day of Action. I will come back to this matter later.
We also took a decision to campaign for comrade Cyril Ramaphosa to be the next ANC President after comrade Jacob Zuma . We said we are not giving it as a blank checque. We said if comrade Cyril or any one wins at the 54th National Conference of the ANC we want to see prioritization of the Unity of the ANC and the movement as a whole; Reconfiguration of the Alliance; Realization of radical socio-economic transformation; Confronting the challenge of an economy which is unable to create the required number of decent jobs? This includes addressing youth unemployment; Confronting crime and corruption both in the public and private sector; to have a legislation that will deal with mergers which results to job losses; Total ban on labour brokers; Scrapping of e-tolls especially; realization of free education for the working class and the poor in the institutions of higher learning

4. Pillar 4: Heightening the struggle against Neo Liberalism.

A. We have made a call on the following demands:

" That the National Minimum Wage be implemented on the 1st May 2018
" That the private sector to impose on itself a moratorium on retrenching as retrenching in an environment of low growth and disinvestment will worsen the lives of millions of workers.
" Call on government to impose a moratorium on retrenchment in all sectors in the economy including in the public sector.
" Call on the government to convene an economic and job summit to address the increase in retrenchment, trickle down economic policies that have failed the workers and the poor and to review the NDP in particular economy and labour chapters.
" There is a need to change the mandate of the South African Rerserve Bank
" We need the Economic Summit to discuss a post colonial society and policy alternatives
" Privatization of Security services must be stopped in the department of health
" Decentralization of Public works - the building of hospitals is not based on the need of the hospitals
" That the NHI must be implemented now
" We want the negotiations on the comprehensive social security to commence now.
" Colleges of health are dilapidated and are overcrowded and there is a shortage of lectures

B. We submitted section 77 notices on Renewable Energy and Closure of Coal Mines and Power stations - Independent Power Producers (IPPs); against Labour Brokers, jobs and retrenchment including on state capture.

NEDLAC have given a certificate that the section 77 State Capture and Corruption has been considered and there was a deadlock allowing COSATU to apply engaged in protest action.

Our campaign against corruption must not create a false impression that corruption is only in the public sector .Neither should our campaign against state capture only target the GUPTA family.

It is important that we broaden our campaign to include not only GUPTA family but other families and individuals who may be similarly guilty. In this regard what do we do about allegation of Glencor's alleged illicit flows as documented by the UN and companies that were involved in tender collusion during the world cup and banks that have fixed the value of the rand for their selfish profit motive?

Therefore our submission of the section 77 notice to fight against corruption and state capture must be located in this context. It is interesting to note that during the NEDLAC debate on the section 77 notices on Jobs and on IPPs business did not agree with COSATU and this was about COSATU demands that ESKOM must not be privatized, renewable energy companies must not be subsidized by ESKOM at the expense of jobs in the coal mines. But business accepted our section 77 notice on corruption and state capture with both hands, even added that they would allow workers to join the marches without docking their salaries. This represents nothing but a continued war against the democratic government where the enemy is ready to ride on popular demands by the working class to achieve its own ends. In other words COSATU must heed the advice from comrade Mao when he said that "in studying a problem, we must shun subjectivity, one-sidedness and superficiality. To be subjective means not to look at problems objectively, that is, not to use the materialist viewpoint in looking at problems"[1]

We still insist that the investigation into the State Capture should extend beyond the limited scope that was given to the Public Protector. We need an investigation on the extent that government institutions have been captured, seeing that many organs and functions of the South African state are outsourced to capital, including policy-making and research.

COSATU wants an investigation that will go back all the way to pre 1994 era, government of national unity to the present. We are also not happy with the illicit outflows of cash in this country because of the Reserve Bank and Treasury's indifference. We also do not believe that state capture issue can be resolved without tackling the company collusions and price fixing as exposed by the Competition Commission.

The recent revelations that the National Treasury wasted R1 billion on an integrated financial management system which after more than a decade it has yet to implement points to sorry state of our affairs.

We also need to confront revelations in the Davies Commission report that from 1985 to 1992 the South African Reserve Bank provided assistance to Bankorp and, for the period 1992 to 1995, to its new owner, Absa. After the existence of that assistance belatedly became public knowledge, its nature and validity became the subject of controversy which was not resolved." This amount to R2, 25 Billion given to ABSA bank as part of an unlawful apartheid-era bailout. . This report was known to comrade Tito Mboweni, the then governor of Reserve Bank, comrade Trevor Manuel, the then minister of Finance and President Thabo Mbeki but all did nothing to address it.

The CEC has agreed that the national day of action will be on the 27th September on which there would be major marches in major cities which will be preceded by intense mobilisation based on provincial Shop Steward Councils, regions working with the alliance formations; engaging civil society formations guided by the COSATU 8th Congress Resolution on the criteria to identify progressive Social movements. Every union to provide 20 percent of the total number of membership and all unions to pay proportional amount towards the success of the campaign.

A team of Deputy General Secretaries have been deployed to provinces to coordinate mobilisation based on build up activities by the provinces.

The activities will include demands on retrenchments, job losses and labour broking.

Part of the build up activities will include the following:

a) We identify strategic issues to be raised in every sector. For an example to convene meetings with the chamber of mines and demand moratorium on retrenchments ; SAFETY of workers , Approach retailers associations , in every sector we identify strategic issues
b) To allocate numbers to unions - to indicate in advance their percentage attendance
c) To mobilize to a point of getting employers shut down their firms.
d) To have a team tasked to engaging civil society and all those sections of society we want to mobilize
e) A programme by the DGS and GS for implementation is attached.

5. Pillar 5: Shaping the battle of ideas and asserting the hegemony of revolutionary working class ideas using education, organizing and media Work.

a) We have said that our first line of defense are the members and members should be the first to be informed about COSATU resolutions and union leaders must ensure that from a COSATU meeting , on the following day members are informed about the decisions from COSATU meetings. Members must know COSATU policies and they must be able to defend and advance COSATU policies wherever they are.
b) We have said that from now on, COSATU leaders including CEC members and provincial leaders must be out to defend COSATU decisions in the media and to challenge our enemies when they tell lies about the federation. No space should be allowed to our class enemies and detractors.
c) We have said all leaders should be on radio, television, attend seminars and write articles to get COSATU to speak through many voices but communicate a single message on its policies.
d) We have said that all provinces should ensure that all activities taking place in the province including at a local level should be report widely using the social media and when the event has a provincial dimension or a national dimension to alert the national office so that the event can be reported through print and electronic media

Conclusion

We expect KZN to go out to the streets on the 27th September more than 70 percent of the work force in support of COSATU' s protest action. We need to show and demonstrate that COSATU is alive and use this as a moment to force everyone to take us serious when we speak . The 27th September is about the credibility of COSATU at a time when our enemies think we are weak! We need to use this to communicate a message that workers are combat ready to take on both our class enemies and our detractors.

Amandla

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