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Policy | Policy Documents
Consolidating Working Class Power for Quality Jobs - Towards 2015: Programme Arising from the COSATU 8th National Congress
9 October 2003
COSATU emerges from its 8th National Congress more united and inspired to tackle the many challenges facing the working class and the broader liberation movement. We reaffirm our vision of a transformative union movement, committed to social transformation both at home and internationally.
We have inherited a rich legacy of democratic and militant trade unionism from our predecessors, directly from the 1973 Durban strikes that led to the resurgence of the democratic trade union movement 30 years ago. We owe it to these pioneers to sustain, build and strengthen COSATU. Thus, we pay our tribute to the heroines and heroes of our struggle who have laid the foundation for the establishment of COSATU.
The complex challenges facing the working class demand a longer- term vision to build a strong trade union movement and to assert working class leadership. The march to our longer- term vision demands patience, resilience; bold thinking foresighted and visionary leadership. We need a medium- term plan because it has become clear that only deep- seated transformation of our economy and the state can bring about the aims of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR). Without confronting the power of the white capital we are all doomed.
Certainly, it demands unwavering commitment to principle regardless of short- term defeats, retreats and provocations. For that reason, this Congress stands at a threshold and has developed a long- term plan towards our 30th Anniversary in 2015. It comes at an important moment in our history - we are celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the 1973 Durban strikes and stand on the verge of the 10 th Anniversary of our freedom.
We here set out the basic framework for our longer term strategy and call upon the CEC to develop further details including benchmarks, timeframes and resources required to realise it.
2. Basic Pillars of our Longer Term Plan to 2015
The 2015 Plan defines priorities, benchmarks and core strategies for taking forward the National Democratic Revolution. The two central pillars of our strategy must be building working class power and ensuring quality jobs. These twin thrusts must be linked and reinforce each other. In particular, engagement on policy issues must support organisational development, rather than overshadowing it. Our longer- term approach has defined, above all:
- Strategies to build the power of the organised working class in South Africa, in our region and continent as well as internationally.
- Strategies to make our relationship with the Alliance work.
- The priority areas for intervening on socio economic policy in the short term to stem the jobloss bloodbath and fight for quality jobs.
Our vision for 2015 is shaped by the following benchmarks:
- Systematic and rigorous implementation of an organisation building programme, ensuring the recruitment of over four million members , by the 10th National Congress in 2009, with a united working class and depth of organisation and militancy.
- Defending our political gains and space. In this regard we need a strong ANC and SACP, rather than weakened Alliance partners.
- Deepening our work to establish socialist forums as a platform where debates on all major challenges facing the working class take place and at the same time playing a major role in delivering membership education and deepening the political consciousness of the working class on the ground.
- A large pool of cadres with organisational, political and ideological depth.
- Working class leadership of the National Democratic Revolution, including in the ANC and key organs of people`s power.
- Stronger civil society, especially community-based organisations, and stronger involvement of locals in local government and mobilisation.
- A stronger role for the working class and black women in the public discourse, challenging the hegemony of capital on a larger scale.
- Ensuring clear measures are in place to reverse rising unemployment, poverty and inequality, ensuring that the share of the working class in national income is on the rise. In this context, increased capacity for affiliates is required to influence sectoral and workplace restructuring policies.
- In that context, a strong developmental and democratic state is needed to drive a growth and development strategy with a strong redistributive thrust.
- Resurgence of the African trade union movement is essential and COSATU must play a central role in developing the perspective of the international trade union movement.
- A better coordinated international policy is required that contributes in the struggles to build a better world based on equitable redistribution of resources and closing the growing gap between the rich and poor within and between countries. In this regard we must build stronger international trade unions and improve the coordination and unity of social movements as well as improve coordination with progressive political parties and progressive governments. Success on this front requires a stronger role in the ILO as well as transformation of the UN institutions such as the WTO, IMF and World Bank.
While the 2015 Plan set a bold vision for the medium term, there are obvious risks that can derail our plan.
Hence the 2015 Plan has to help us avoid the worst- case scenario. The worst-case scenario is one characterised by, in the main, our failure to systematically implement this Plan. We define the worst-case scenario as entailing among others:
- A rapid decline in membership to below 1 million by the 30th Anniversary of COSATU in 2015.
- The persistence of financial challenges, ultimately forcing a cutback in our roles in the range of issues.
- The coherence and unity of COSATU being undermined leading to splits.
- The collapse of the Alliance and in that context the ANC and the SACP also facing splits.
- A full- blown "skorokoro" scenario as painted by the September Commission Report.
3. Political Programme
The establishment of democracy brought a huge increase in political power, labour rights and social and economicÂ opportunities for black people, including workers and women. It fundamentally improved conditions for the majority of our people. For the first time, the majority of our people enjoy the right to vote and the full range of human rights.
The gains were associated with substantial improvement in pay and conditions for lower level African workers, especially in the first few years of democracy. Blacks and women benefited from laws banning discrimination and improving basic conditions of employment. They also gained much greater access to education and skills development. Workers also benefited from the extension of government services in African communities.
The reconfiguration of the international balance of power, at least since the mid- 1980s, which resulted in the end of the cold war, also made it possible to end apartheid. So despite our transition- taking place in a fluid, complex and hostile international situation, the democratic movement had succeeded in building momentum for progressive change both here at home and abroad.
As such the ANC-led democratic movement used access to political power to begin to unravel the legacy of the past. Still, the state, with the adoption of the GEAR, pursued a contradictory strategy, which on the one hand provided basic services to the people and changed apartheid labour regulation. On the other hand, it relied on a conservative macroeconomic framework.
The gains listed above have been offset by rising unemployment and the resulting fall in incomes for poor households. Slow growth and low investment have been associated with formal job loss and a decline in the quality of work. To the extent the economy has created jobs at all, they have been low- level, insecure and very poorly paid. Thus the average income from work declined sharply between 1995 and 2001.
Essentially, the first decade of freedom has meant the attainment of political power and not total control over the state. While the ANC is the leading party in government, old- style bureaucrats; reactionary consultants; and advisors from the IMF and World Bank have to a certain extent usurped policy formulation in critical areas. On its part, the democratic movement has weakened its capacity to formulate and develop policy while the Alliance is largely marginalised from policymaking.
Fundamentally, economic power remains firmly in the hands of white capital centred in mining and finance capital. Unless the economy is restructured significantly, it would be hard to realise the objectives of the National Democratic Revolution.
We also note the process of class formation now taking place in our society. While the ruling class remains largely white and centred in mining and finance, we have seen the emergence of a small black bourgeoisie. On its part, the working class has also been restructured with the loss of jobs and expansion of the informal economy.
Capital`s drive for short- term profits has resulted in new forms of insecure and poor quality jobs. The process of class formation has serious implications for the NDR and the working class.
The overall thrust of our political strategy is to assert working class hegemony of society to counteract the entrenched power of capital. To that end, we seek to combine state and social power in a way that consistently tilts the balance of power in favour of the working class.
Freedom must bring tangible and real benefits to the working class.
3.2 Pillars of our Political Programme
1. Democratising the state
The state machinery is an important lever for social change hence seizure of state power is a precondition for social revolution. Still, the state machinery has to be transformed if it is to serve the interests of a new ruling bloc. It is to that end that one of the objectives of the NDR, expressed in the Freedom Charter and the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), was the democratisation of the state. In the last nine years we have witnessed a mixed process to transform the state machinery:
- The constitution entrenches both representative democracy and elements of participatory democracy.
Further, the Constitution has a set of provisions to guarantee good, accountable and transparent governance.
- South Africa is now a united country governed by single state machinery. This is a remarkable achievement considering the balkanisation of the state under apartheid.
- The establishment of integrated and non- racial local governments.
- Government`s attempt to transform the apartheid state in many cases seeks to introduce the private sector in the provision of public services or alternatively to cut back on the number of workers employed by the state.
- The establishment of structures of social dialogue such as NEDLAC.
The new state machinery opens up spaces to the working class and the democratic movement to steer the direction of social change. Unless however, the Alliance asserts its hegemony over the state and governance based on an agreed programme for change, we are more likely to repeat the experience of the last nine years.
To that end, we require a strong and functioning Alliance and an Alliance programme to implement the RDP in the current period.
To further deepen democracy and ensure good governance our programme will have the following elements:
- Building a functioning Alliance
- Calling for a mixed electoral system at national, provincial and local level supported by oversight institutions such as parliament to ensure accountability of public representatives. To that end we propose 65% constituency- based and 35% proportional representation. The Alliance should develop a deployment strategy for all public representatives with the Alliance structures playing a much stronger role in the appointment of Premiers and Mayors.
- Strengthening social dialogue and in that context empowering NEDLAC.
- Defending and building the public sector to ensure that the state drives transformation.
- Developing our capacity to influence policy and legislative processes at national, provincial; local and sectoral levels combined with mechanism to monitor.
To that end, we will monitor government policy and the contributions of individual members of parliament, Cabinet Ministers and other leaders to the needs of the working class, and find ways to communicate this to our members.
The CEC will develop a concrete programme to achieve the above, specifically the last three. We deal with the Alliance below.
Our general approach to elections entails the following:
- For each elections we will have a balance sheet based on our vision of what was achieved, what still needs to be done and setbacks. On that basis we will develop a framework for what should constitute an electoral platform. This analysis will be used to contribute towards the development of Election Manifestos.
- Establishing election teams for mobilisation of voters during the entire election campaign.
- Mobilising financial resources to implement our election plan.
For the 2004 General Elections, we shall follow the programme developed by the CEC, namely:
- Establishing election teams at national, regional and local level.
- Mobilising workers to register to vote for elections and to vote ANC.
- Mobilising resources to carry out this work.
The key task facing us in the forthcoming elections is to ensure that the ANC wins the Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal with a clear majority. Further we will work towards ensuring that the ANC consolidates its majority in other provinces.
The CEC will develop a detailed programme for the local government elections in 2005. The 2006 COSATUCongress will adopt a programme and approach to the 2009 General Elections and 2010 Local Government Elections. The 2009 and 2012 Congress will adopt programme for the 2012 General Elections and 2013 LocalGovernment Elections.
5. Building the Alliance
We need to develop a more constructive and pro- active approach to the Alliance. Our work starts with the belief that the unity of the working class and its allies, expressed politically through the Alliance, is critical to ensuring a more favourable outcome. But we need a more strategic approach, which lets us gradually build the effectiveness of the Alliance while restoring the hegemony of the working class in the democratic movement.
COSATU believes that the Alliance comprises three independent formations under the leadership of the ANC. To that end, we will consistently work towards ensuring that the Alliance becomes the political centre that steers our revolution. By the political centre we mean Alliance processes that:
- Allow Alliance partners to participate equally and fully on matters of national, provincial and local importance.
- Serve as a platform to share information and develop common positions on national and international questions.
- Serve as forum for the Alliance partners to debate and discuss their different positions, e. g. on economic policy, privatisation, etc.
- Influence events in all parliamentary structures, be it at a national, provincial or local level.
- Meet regularly at national, provincial and local level.
COSATU will table a detailed proposal on how the Alliance should operate; relate to governance structures and its relationship with the mass democratic movement.
Linked to this COSATU will also re- table its historical proposal for an Alliance programme for transformation.
Further, COSATU will call for a mechanism to manage inter- Alliance debate and differences as per the Ekurhuleni Declaration.
6. The ANC
The ANC is our organisation and we are not going to throw in the towel and leave it. Still we recognise that the ANC is undergoing a process of adjusting to being a party in government, while retaining its overall character as a mass liberation movement. Further, the ANC is being intensely lobbied by capital to adopt its positions.
It is in this regard that the working class has to jealously defend the progressive and working class bias of the ANC.
To that end COSATU commits:
- To swell the ranks of the ANC by calling on its members, shop stewards and leaders to join the ANC en masse .
- To develop a joint programme with the ANC on campaigns, education, and others matters.
- To continue building programmatic relations with the leagues of the ANC
7. The SACP
The SACP is the vanguard of the working class, and we seek to build it into a strong, mass- based organisation that truly can be the bedrock for workers. To remain relevant, the SACP must strengthen its capacity for independent analysis and policy development from a working class perspective. In the medium term:
- The Socialist Commission should discuss the two medium term strategy documents developed by COSATU and SACP and develop a minimum platform of work. Further the Commission should re-open discussion on a Conference of the Left and agree on a common programme for the Socialist Forums.
- COSATU will provide financial and material support to the SACP as a concrete contribution toward the Party becoming financially stable and ultimately self-reliant. In that vain, we will encourage our members and leaders to support the debit order campaign and to join the SACP. The Central Executive Committee will determine the actual contribution by affiliates.
- COSATU will support the Red October and other campaigns run by the SACP.
- COSATU will ensure that the Chris Hani Institute is up and running in order to deepen political education and a working class perspective on development questions.
- COSATU will ensure young workers join the Young Communist League.
8. The Mass Democratic Movement
COSATU and the working class have to broaden the front facing capital. To that end, we will work primarily with traditional mass democratic movement formations.
We recognise the development of new- issue based social movements, some of which are hostile to the Alliance and COSATU. We have a duty to assert working class leadership of these formations and to that end it is imperative that the Alliance develops a common strategy on the social movements.
Our plan of action would comprise two elements. The first is working with the traditional mass democratic movements. To that end, COSATU will continue to support the student movement, COSAS and SASCO and strengthen SANCO so that they develop their organisational and political capabilities. We will also continue our relations with the People`s Budget Coalition, the Basic Income Grant Coalition, the TAC, and the traditional allies of the working class.
The second leg of our work with new social movements will be guided by the criteria set out in the previous COSATU Congresses in 1985 and 1987, as well as the following criteria, to determine social movements that we will work with:
- Whether the issue/ s being taken up is/ are genuine and affecting the working class and the poor.
- Whether the campaign and working together strengthens the working class, the labour movement and the broad democratic movement.
- Whether the organisations that the Federation wants to work with are mass based or have an orientation to the masses.
- Whether the organisations adhere to the principles of internal democracy and working class leadership.
- Whether the agenda of the organisations does not aim to liquidate or undermine the Alliance partners.
- Whether the organisation has a track record of disciplined organisational practice, and does not foster divisions within COSATU affiliates.
9. Ideological Contestation and Political Education
Our society is characterised by intense ideological contestation, which also manifest itself in the democratic movement.
We can only build working class power in a situation where there is a deliberate and sustained cadreship development programme. Such a programme of political education should deepen members` understanding of the current phase of our struggle, the challenges it poses and the most appropriate strategy and tactics.
To take our political work forward:
- In the medium term, we must build the Chris Hani Institute into a strong engine for ideological grounding and political education as well as the development of alternatives on a range of issues but primarily to ensure that serves as an intellectual asset of the working class.
- Set aside a portion of our income for the design and delivery of political education programmes across the Federation. To that end prioritise the strengthening of our locals and regions.
- Invest in developing a pool of political educators,
- Collaborate with the progressive intelligentsia to contest the intellectual and ideological space in society through public debates, use of media, and influencing centres of knowledge production such as universities, policy institutes, etc. To that end COSATU should be at the centre of shaping on- going development of curriculum that promotes working class and progressive values in the public education system.
- Focus on young workers and develop ways to attract them to trade union organisation.
- Be at the centre of alternative cultural productions that highlight the experience of our people and which instil values based on the objectives of non- racial and working class traditions
10. Benchmarks for our Political Programme
The following benchmarks for our political programme shall include:
- Playing a decisive role in the 2004 elections as well as subsequent elections, and shaping the elections platform. On the one hand, we need to maintain the overwhelming predominance of the ANC. On the other, we must reassert COSATU`s importance in the electoral process. At the same time, we recognise that massive unemployment and high service charges will make for a difficult elections campaigns.
- Making a reality our long- standing resolution to build the ANC and the SACP by developing a concrete programme with measurable targets and monitoring mechanism.
- Deepening the ideological contestation around the nature of the National Democratic Revolution.
- Monitoring government policy and contributions of individual members of parliament, Cabinet Ministers and other leaders to the needs of the working class and finding ways to communicate this to membership including through publishing a scorecard in the Shop Steward Magazine.
- Ensuring that the working class is a factor in the national congress of the ANC and SACP in 2007.
Playing a key role in the ANC centenary celebrations and in subsequent congresses of the SACP and the ANC.
4. Organisational Programme - Building COSATU Engines
Any strategy will fail without a strong organisation on the ground. Only a strong and militant organisation can ensure that COSATU and workers as a class are taken as a force to be reckoned with. We can never affect the balance of forces if our organisation is weak.
The working class does not get a leadership role automatically, but must continue to earn it. To that end we must build the capability of our organisation and ensure genuine internal democracy.
2. Building COSATU - An Ongoing Programme of Organisational Development
The 8th National Congress has adopted the Report from the Organisational Review Commission, which set out the basic framework for organisational development. As stated in the Report, organisational development is an ongoing process that must be implemented continuously.
The Organisational Review Programme must achieve two aims: First and foremost, we must build a strong trade union movement that excels on workplace issues and defence of members in the face of attacks by employers. Second, we must continue to engage on priority policy issues, above all to ensure employment creation and strengthen social protection.
The key elements of the Organisational Review Programme adopted by Congress are:
- A recruitment drive campaign with the aim of increasing our membership by 10% every year, working towards the overall target of 2.6 million by 2006 4 million in 2009.
- Ensuring greater support for Shop Stewards, both in terms of organisational service and education.
- Institutionalising capacity building for both effective organisation and ideological cohesion. The core task is to build the education capacity of affiliates and the Federation, as well as other institutions such as DITSELA and the Chris Hani Institute.
- Ensuring better financial and personnel management in each affiliate.
- Unifying the three Federations so that by 2009 we realise our vision of one-country-one-Federation, one-industry-one-union.
- Promoting women leadership, taking up gender struggles much more effectively, and monitoring progress consistently. Congress has adopted the quota for women representation in leadership structures and by 2006 we must see visible improvements in representivity.
- Ensuring measures to manage the deployment process. In this regard, we should ensure even development amongst leaders and affiliates and further consolidate the depth in our leadership. We need an exit strategy for leadership that retains experience and expertise within the trade union movement.
- Implementing gains we have achieved at the level of legislative advances into coherent organisational strategies.
- Providing quality benefits to workers, improving their and their families` lives; and creating the reputation of COSATU as a movement, which really cares for and is home for all workers. This includes looking at best practice across the affiliates and international experience around issues such as bursaries for children of workers, insurance, health and other benefits, workers` holidays, workers saving schemes, etc.
Further, we need to recognise the fact that the composition, socially and economically of the working class is dynamic and shifting. Therefore our organisational strategies need to address these changing realities, and be specifically geared towards meeting the needs and addressing the consciousness of specific layers and strata of workers. Some of the sectors and strata that we need to consciously target with creative organisational approaches include:
- Migrant workers.
- Casualised and part- time workers.
- Unorganised sectors of the working class. The obvious sectors in this regard are about 2 million unorganised farm and domestic workers.
Other sectors also need to be identified, including construction.
The CEC must define a detailed plan to implement the organisational renewal resolutions adopted by Congress. This includes defining priorities, setting time frames and benchmarks.
5. Socio- Economic Programme - Defending and Creating Quality Jobs
Ensuring quality jobs requires both stronger efforts to manage workplace and sectoral restructuring, and more targeted policy engagement overall. We cannot afford to let South Africa follow the pattern of National Democratic Revolution in the rest of Africa, where the ruling elite colludes with local and foreign capital to enrich itself at the cost of the country as a whole.
Rather, we must ensure that government acts to restructure the economy fundamentally, which in turn requires that it do more to manage capital. At the same time, we must define an effective strategy to lock capital into a national agenda, through incentives, regulation and discipline, in order to ensure higher investment.
2. Elements of our Programme
Our programme has three core elements:
1. Engagement at sectoral level, especially through sector summit and charter processes. We need to review our programme of building capacity for sectoral engagement and define guidelines and resource needs. Benchmarks include:
- By 2006, every affiliate should have a clear programme for sectoral engagement, accompanied by broad- based educational programmes. For its part, the centre should have developed guidelines for sectoral outcomes and engagement that ensure effective use of capacity without overburdening the union movement with policy demands.
- Sector summits should have been held in sectors prioritised by the GDS (metals and engineering, chemicals, construction, ICT, clothing and textile, agriculture and agro- processing, tourism, call centres and back office processing, and cultural industries), plus health, education, electricity and local government.
- COSATU should have the capacity to monitor sectoral processes and support affiliates where necessary.
2. Engagement in the workplace backed up by the living wage campaign. This means that COSATU must do more to develop model demands in each area as agreed by CEC in 2002. These demands should be based on mandates from the 8 th Congress, and circulated in time to influence the 2004 negotiation.
- Starting in 2004, key demands from the living wage campaign should have a visible influence on negotiations in all sectors.
- By the 2009 National Congress, the living wage campaign should have led to greater consistency in standards across sectors.
- COSATU should begin immediately to monitor negotiations to identify new needs and weaknesses.
It should set standards in each area covered by the living wage campaign, and report on its impact to the 9th National Congress in 2006 and subsequent congresses.
3. Continued engagement on national policies through, NEDLAC, at Parliament and in bilaterals, with two core focuses: supporting economic and labour market policies, which promote job creation and retention, and improving social protection. COSATU should report on key identified priorities and critical areas which include:
- Engagement to counter pressure by capital for excessively restrictive fiscal and monetary policy.
- Work to restructure the financial and retail sectors.
- Ensuring trade agreements do not undermine sectoral developments, destroy jobs or undermine the capacity of the state to drive development.
- Ensuring affordable access to basic services, focusing on education, health, water, electricity and sewage, as well as public transport and housing - and by extension fighting privatisation and commercialisation.
- Ensuring a comprehensive social security system.
- Measures to consolidate worker rights, and roll back strategies of capital including on casualisation, contracting out, etc.
- Measures to ensure that investment are directed into productive activity, by capital in general, retirement funds (including the implementation of the COSATU policy on retirement funds), the public sector as well as strengthening of the social sector.
6. International Programme
Our local struggles are intertwined with internationalworking class struggles - through our local initiatives and victories that we score, we open up a new front in the ongoing struggle against international monopoly capital. The globalisation of capitalism means that no society can survive on its own. Hence we need to appreciate the dynamic linkages between our struggles here at home and on the international front.
6.2 Elements of our International Programme
COSATU`s international programme rests on three pillars:
- Building an international working class movement.
- International Solidarity.
- Struggle for a Just World Order.
1. Building the African Trade Union Movement and International Solidarity
COSATU`s main contribution in consolidating working class international power and solidarity is by concrete action to build a vibrant African trade union movement that is linked to the global trade union movement. In that regard, we have to fight against beggar-thy-neighbour development policies and a race to the bottom as a means to attract investment.
Working- class solidarity especially in the region has two main objectives. First, the gains that we make in South Africa can easily be eroded if workers in the region do not enjoy similar rights. Some companies have relocated to Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland to avoid progressive labour laws that protects workers rights in South Africa. It is for this reason, that the SADC Charter of Fundamental Social Rights is a cornerstone of our action for a common basic floor of rights.
Secondly, we need a strong international trade union movement to enforce global labour standards. Further, we need a progressive international trade union movement that engages with the global discourse on people- centred development. COSATU cannot influence this discourse if it is on the fringe of or un- strategic in its participation in the global trade union movement. Our agenda should at its core, seek a better deal for workers in the current world economy.
That means setting a floor of basic rights for workers across the globe. By extension, it is in the interest of workers both at home and internationally to encourage and nurture global workers` solidarity. To that end, COSATU must define:
- Concrete actions to build the African trade union movement and what we want out of that movement.
To that end we also need to clarify what resources we are willing to invest to realise this goal. That also means concretely working to eliminate the barriers to workers unity - including the artificial linguistic barrier.
- What we want out of the international trade union movement, our role in it and the resources we are willing to commit.
Having said that, in the next three years we will step up our solidarity work with Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU), Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) Cuba`s CTC and others.
2. Struggle for a Just World Order
The current world order dominated by the United States is largely not favourable to the working class. The Alliance between powerful trans- national corporations, a handful of developed nations and international financial institutions, currently drives the anti-working class agenda. Still, in the recent past, new opportunities have emerged signifying the rising confidence of the working class to take up struggles against unfair trade, U. S aggression, etc. Overall we seek to ensure:
- A just and equitable world order.
- A fair trade regime and reject attempts by developed countries to further entrench their dominance and to undermine the sovereignty of developing countries.
- Transformation of the international institutions such as the World Bank, WTO and IMF.
- International peace and stability.
- A global basic floor of rights for workers and human rights.
The CEC should develop concrete proposals on how we will realise this overall vision and further elaborate on COSATU COSATU`s global transformation agenda on issues such as trade, development; and international financial institutions.