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Shopsteward Volume 26 No. 2

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Campaigns  |  Miscellaneous

November 1998    


Elections '99     -        YOU can make it happen

Our theme for the 6th National Congress (1997) and the Inaugural Central Committee (1998) was "Defend, Consolidate and Advance Social Transformation". As we prepare for the 1999 general elections, we need to be once more guided by that theme. However unlike 1994 (where you only needed an ID document to be able to vote), the 1999 elections requires you to do certain things in order to vote. If you do not follow these procedures you will not be able to vote. It is crucial that all workers follow these procedures as part of our commitment to defend, consolidate and advance social transformation.

What are these procedures and requirement?

  • You must be at least 18 years old.

  • You need a green bar-coded identity document or a temporary voter's registration certificate.

  • You should be registered as a voter in an area where you ordinarily live.

Why do I need a green bar-coded identity document?

Since 1986, the green bar-coded identity document has been the only official document for identification. Remember when the dompas was abolished? It was replaced by the green bar-coded ID. The only difference is that while all South Africans were supposed to apply and be issued with this new document, some of our people did not apply. The apartheid regime - committed to separation of all South Africans - took no steps to ensure that all South Africans posses a single uniform ID. As a result some people still have the old ID and the Book of Life (as if the rest were death certificates).

The new parliament - our parliament - adopted the green bar-coded ID as the official document of identification by all South Africans. A single identity document also means that we become a non-racial society not in name only but through a single identification document. This is the case in all democracies. The COSATU leadership calls on all workers and communities to apply for the green bar-coded ID now! President Nelson Mandela has one; the President of the ANC comrade Thabo Mbeki has one. So too does Blade Nzimande the General Secretary of the SACP. Our own COSATU President - John Gomomo, has one. All of these powerful individuals also need the new ID in order to vote. Without it they too would not be allowed to vote and they will have had themselves to blame!

Surely I can use my green ID even if it is not bar coded?

No! You cannot. The code in your green bar coded ID is the identification of who you are in addition to a photo, which as we all know, can be affixed into a stolen ID by criminal elements. By having a green bar-coded ID, you also help eliminate fraud and corruption, such as in the pension scheme. So-called ghost workers are drawing pensions and collecting more than one salary. Already all those who receive state pension use the green bar-coded ID to receive their benefits. The assertion that the elderly will be denied the right to vote because they do not have the correct ID is misleading and is false.

Where can I obtain my green bar-coded ID?

In most cases you can apply for these at the home affairs offices. However steps are being put in place to make it possible to apply in schools, local government, other government offices, etc. If you had the green bar-coded ID and you lost it or your name is contained in the population register - it can be traced through your birth certificate - you can apply for a certificate which you can use for registration. We know that it takes time to stand in queues for an ID, but it is worth it. At the same time we urge all communities to report those officials who are either rude or refuse to co-operate.

Why should I register?

Generally elections are contested on a common voters roll. 1994 was an exception since no one could expect the old regime to compile a credible register. The 1999 elections are being prepared by the IEC. They will identify areas near you where you can register as a voter. Furthermore, whereas you could vote anywhere in 1994, for the forthcoming elections you can only vote where you are registered. We are aware of the impact that this will have on migrant workers, contract workers as well as seasonal workers. It for this reason that we would have preferred that the election date be set as soon as possible. However we urge workers to register where they reside or work. If it turns out that you will be in a different area (to the area where you have registered) on the voting date for any reason, you will be allowed to de-register and register again. Even if you do not have an ID, you should go to the registration place where people will help you apply for an ID and then register.

Where should I register

Local government offices and community centres will soon be publishing a map of voting stations. You will also be getting a pamphlet soon which will indicate where these stations are.

You should register at the location most convenient for you i e closest to where you live.

When is registration taking place?

The first registration will take place on 27, 28 and 29 November 1998. While it is clear that it may not be possible for all eligible voters to register in these three days, we believe that it is crucial that we do not wait until the last moment.

All leaders of the federation, shop stewards, trade union organisers, workers and communities need to use the period between now and the registration time to apply for a green bar-coded ID as well as register as voters. We should not follow the agenda of the opposition who are calling for the use of the any document. We want a free and fair election. The best way to achieve one is to eliminate fraud. Let us all obtain the new ID.

Jobs Summit holds hope for thousands of new jobs!

The long awaited Presidential Jobs Summit finally took place on 30 October 1998. This was a watershed event. Its significance has still to be fully appreciated by some in the commercial press. Of importance was that most of the agreements were a result of a bilateral process between labour and government or put more bluntly the Alliance. COSATU had expressed concerns that the summit may become a jamboree or a talk shop whose main focus would be the song and dance by business to scrap the LRA, BCEA and a call for yet to be defined labour market flexibility. The response would be rejection by labour, with government sitting on the fence. We called for an Alliance Summit to resolve the bigger macro-economic issues, thus pave the way for a successful jobs summit.

We can now pronounce without a fear of any contradiction that the Job Summit was not a talk shop, a publicity stunt meant to deceive the unemployment that something was being done whilst people stuck to sterile anti workers ideology. The Alliance Summit that held on 24 - 25 October 1998 could not have taken place in a better time. It helped create an environment for real negotiations with less acrimony. The agreement that the international crisis was not limited to the financial crisis but was also a "paradigm crisis for a simplistic one-size-fits-all strictures of the so called Washington Consensus" was extremely important. Of most importance to COSATU was the agreement that adjustments are needed in the light of GEAR's inability to meet its targets and that detail work is need to take this forward.

The NEDLAC labour caucus - COSATU, NACTU and FEDUSA held countless discussions in preparations for the Job Summit. For COSATU this culminated in the discussion involving more than 450 worker representatives who gathered at the inaugural Central Committee. The CC consolidated our positions and endorsed job creation proposals submitted in April 1998. Out of these discussions we emerged with 22 programmes and projects. After an intense initial period of negotiations these were reprioritised into fifteen key proposals. These were:

  1. A Macro-Economic Policy and Job Creation Statement which would identify areas of consensus on appropriate macro-economic policy, relationship between macro-economic policy and job creation and poverty alleviation. The statement also had to identify areas of difference on macro-economic policy, which would require discussion in the post summit process.

  2. Provision and upgrading of rural and urban infrastructure to attack the backlogs in particular in black areas.

  3. National Public Housing Programme that will build 1 million houses on a rented stock over a period of 4 years. This includes an establishment of a housing agency to drive this.

  4. Youth Brigades / A National Youth Service

  5. Promotion of Domestic Investment

  6. Buy Local Campaign

  7. Public Sector Policy in particular Public Sector Restructuring

  8. Stemming Job losses in particular demands to amend the LRA to make the retrenchment of workers a negotiations issue instead of the current situation.

  9. Productivity and equity

  10. Expansion of industry training

  11. National Industrial restructuring programme to promote job creation.

  12. Tariffs review to promote job growth and job retention.

  13. Income grants for the unemployed and those earning below a certain income.

  14. Social plan to caution the impact of retrenchments on workers and focus on their retraining.

  15. Strengthening Customs and Exercise to deal with the influx of illegal goods entering our country without having to pay duties.

In addition, we continued to fight for a range of financing mechanisms to support these programmes. These were:

  • One day output for jobs ( the value of total output in the South African economy over one day, including wages)

  • Raising of capital through a prescribed asset requirement

  • Greater government spending on job creation

  • Consideration of the Pay As You Go system

  • Increasing the progressivity of the taxation system

  • Using the South African Special Risk Insurance Association - SASRIA

These is what we use as yardstick in the assessment and discussions on Jobs Summit.

There are a total of 33 agreements reached in the Job Summit. The summary we present here largely centers around labour's proposals instead of the entire package that emerged out of the Summit.

  1. Statement on Macro-Economic policy and Job Creation
  2. The main victories that we scored in the statement that became part of the declaration are:

    • That the primary objective of the economic policy is to promote growth and development in order to create jobs, alleviate poverty and reduce inequalities.

    • The reiteration that the RDP is the primary policy of the government and the country.

    • Recognition that the credibility of the macro-economic policy is enhanced if it is sustainable, successful and enjoys a broad support in society.

    • Agreement that an appropriate macro-economic policy should reinforce the structural transformation contained in the RDP and thereby promote:

    • The elimination of poverty, reduction of inequalities and a redistribution of resources.

    • An increase in per capita GDP through higher levels of investment, growth and development.

    • The maximum potential net job creation within an employment generating growth path.

    • Agreement that the GEAR projections on growth interest rates and employment will not be met and that adjustments are necessary.

    These are extremely significant statements, which will lay a basis for the broad consensus between the parties in the next period. We did not pursue a detailed agreement on the macro-economic statement as it became clear that there will be no sufficient time to negotiate this prior to the Job Summit. Secondly we knew that it will unrealistic to hope for an agreement in NEDLAC whilst there is still no agreement within the Alliance.

    There was however a set back in the agreement in that the Job Summit contains a wording that implies that all of us agree that the adjustment of GEAR targets will happen within the framework of GEAR. This we did not agree to and we made this absolutely clear through the speech of comrade John Gomomo delivered on behalf of labour in the Job Summit.

  3. Buy South Africa
  4. A campaign to promote demand for South African products and services that embody high standards of quality was agreed to. A key component of the campaign will be the establishment of a new label for qualifying products and services. The label will be awarded to quality products and services produced by firms which comply to minimum standards regarding the environmental responsibility and labour standards and whose products and services embody sufficient local content (including a factor for SADC inputs).

  5. Strengthen Customs and Excise
  6. It was agreed that the capacity to stem the flow of illegal imported goods into South Africa will contribute to job creation and good governance in the economy. A range of measurers were agreed to in order to improve border controls. Government will allocate money for the Customs Transformation Programme.

  7. Tariffs
  8. As part of the strategy to reduce job loss and increase employment, government will initiate a comprehensive process with the NEDLAC parties to develop the next round of trade policy programmes and prepare for the next WTO round. Job loss and job creation in industries affected by tariff reform needs to be prioritised, and specific attention will be paid to those industries that have experienced job losses over the past 36 months.

  9. Housing: A National Presidential Lead Projects
  10. The National Presidential Lead Project (NPLP) aims to pilot affordable mass housing delivery. A minimum of 50 000 and a maximum of 150 000 housing units for low-income families will be built through the NPLP. This project and pilot will be implemented in phases. The NPLP will be managed by a government agency, still to be determined. In the first phase 50 000 units would be financed jointly by the private sector and government. The use of the labour intensive construction methods will be encouraged in the awarding of tenders.

  11. Social Plan
  12. A framework for a Social Plan approach has been agreed to after two years of negotiations. The plan aims to avoid job losses wherever possible. In cases where large-scale job losses are unavoidable it would seek to actively manage retrenchments and cushion their effects on individuals and local economies.

  13. Social Security
  14. Parties committed themselves to implementing a comprehensive social security system, aimed especially at those living in poverty and the unemployed. A basic income grant will be considered at the part of such a system.

  15. Education and Training
  16. Parties are committed to the progressive building of South Africa's human capacity at all educational levels. Programmes will be aimed at improving School Quality Management, school efficiency and school effectiveness.

  17. Learnerships
  18. A learnership is a workplace-based pathways, which link theoretical learning with structured workplace experience. Parties have committed themselves to supporting the implementation of learnerships, particularly for those outside of work. An average learnership will have duration of approximately one-year split between course work at a learning center and workplace experience.

  19. Youth Brigades
  20. A Youth Brigade programme will be established as a means to involve youth in public and community service and to facilitate their access to income generating opportunities. There will be three lead programmes viz. Working of water, the clean and green cities campaign and the community-based public works programme where young people in particular will be used. A campaign against HIV/Aids would be launched through the Aids Brigades.

  21. Women in Non-traditional Occupations
  22. To address the crowding of women in few insecure and low-paid occupations (such as nursing, domestic work and teaching) a campaign will be launched to:

    • Consider school curricula and career guidance;

    • Actively promote entrepreneurs through mentorships and financial support;

    • Consider special incentives to encourage women into training;

    • Encourage the promotion and training of women in all economic sectors in line with Employment Equity Bill.

  23. Special Employment Programmes
  24. A more dynamic and integrated approach to implementation of the special employment programmes will be embarked upon. This includes integration of the labour intensive infrastructure programmes such as Working for Water, Land Care Campaign, Clean and Green Cities Campaign, Rural Water Supply, Community Based Programmes, Consolidated Municipal Infrastructure Programme, Housing and select Welfare Programmes. These programmes will also be integrated to the provincial projects such as the Greater St Lucia in KwaZulu Natal, Wild Coast-Emonti and Greater Algoa Bay.

Financing Mechanisms

  1. One Day Output
  2. Organised labour has called on its 2,5 million members and all employers in South Africa to participate in a "One Day output for Job Programme" on 03 March 1999. This is a call for the people of South Africa to contribute the value of their one-day's employment and development programmes. Both white and blue-collar workers, managers, trade union officials, television presenters, politicians, artists and all other workers are called upon to contribute towards realisation of this initiative. With effective campaigning we think that between 1 to 2 billion rands will be raised. Some of the money raised will be used in a range of programmes such as Youth Brigades. We are in the process of setting up a legally structured trust to decide on allocation of funds to projects, which will have a concrete effect on the lives of our people.

  3. Contribution by Business
  4. Business has initiated a fund to support training, education and the tourism sector. Business has already raised huge sums of money with already over 100 top South African companies making pledges to this Business Initiative.

  5. Contribution by Government
  6. Government has made resources available for poverty alleviation and infrastructure. Government will make every effort to provide resources for the programmes that create jobs. The framework for doing this will be set out in the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement.

  7. Prescribed Assets
  8. There is a general concern that investible funds should contribute to investment in social infrastructure. It has been agreed that specific proposals will deal with the need in the housing and SMMEs sectors. If this programme fails to ensure adequate financing, then serious consideration will be given to introducing amore effective mechanisms and regulatory means to ensure investment in social infrastructure.

  9. Funding of Government Employees Pensions Fund
  10. There is an agreement that a level of pre-funded be fixed somewhere in between a fully funded system, and that of a "pay as you go" system, in a way which ensures a stable pension fund, without absorbing unnecessary resources from the fiscus is necessary. It is agreed that a task team will be set up to look at how to shift from the current funding system, to meet the objectives of releasing more resources for the social deficit and government debt without undermining the stability of the pension fund.

  11. Training Levy
  12. The parties accepted that more resources would be required in future to expand the level and quality of skill development and commit to considering how to increase the resources available for skill programmes, and in pursuance of the goals of the NSA. To this end the post-summit supervisory committee will identify this as a priority. Government should expeditiously pass the Skill Development Levies Bill.

  13. Umsobomvu
  14. Government will establish the Umsobomvu Trust with an initial capitalisation from the proceeds of the demutualisation process.

Brief Analysis of the gains, setbacks and way forward

The summary of the agreements presented in above indicates that whilst labour did not in an outright manner win all its demands, important gains were made. Many of agreements reached go beyond statements of intent or principle; they represent serious interventions at policy level. The implementation of these will alleviate unemployment and poverty. The example of the issues with such importance include the housing agreement, youth brigades, buy local campaign, tariffs, sector summits, etc.

A number of agreements represent agreements in principle and commitments to consider and or investigate some of the proposals labour submitted. Whilst we did not achieve outright victories in relation to these, a foundation has been laid which allows labour to continue fighting and win the debate in the future. These areas include the macro-economic statement, prescribed assets, restructuring of the government employees pension fund, social security including the income grant, etc. The post summit process will further allow us to pursue the remainder of our demands not dealt with in this process.

In the negotiations other parties started from outright rejection of labour proposals as "unrealistic" to where there was a genuine appreciation of the logic of our demands.

Of course there a number of issues that we thought that we were on the verge of winning in the process. Of particular significance is the matter of making amendments to the LRA in order to make retrenchment a lot more difficult than currently is the case. Our demand was that retrenchment should be made a negotiations issue instead of a mere consultation issue. We are disappointed that the summit, which took place in the backdrop of unprecedented retrenchments and job loss, did not pronounce itself on job security of workers currently in employment. This is the matter that COSATU should pursue in the coming period.

A large amount of follow-up work is required. A programme to systematically follow up all agreements, issues that need further fine-tuning and follow up of disagreements is being drafted by NEDLAC. Considering the package that has emerged, the Jobs Summit was a success and a victory for workers.