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Shopsteward Volume 26 No. 2

COSATU Media Monitor COSATU Media Monitor COSATU Media Monitor


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Publications  |  Shopsteward


Volume 4. No.4 - August/September 1995



The third quarter of the year is usually a busy period for the labour movement. It is the period in which we lock horns with employers, resulting in settlements or strikes.

This year was slightly different. While negotiations took place over this period, affiliates used different approaches to those of previous years. In the mining, steel and engineering, clothing and public sector, to name but a few, negotiations were characterised by a range of protest actions as a back-up to the negotiators. At the time of the Shopsteward going to press, most of these had been settled, with the exception of certain municipalities.

The fact that there was more protest action and fewer strikes does not signal a weakness or a retreat by the labour movement. It is a confirmation of our approach that always says: We will strike as and when we see fit, weighing up the circumstances and the likely outcome. But, above all, we will choose the terrain rather than be lured into the bosses' battlefield.

The LRA agreement

Since the conclusion of the Nedlac agreement on the Labour Relations Bill, we have been going around the country explaining the outcome of the negotiations, the process thus far, and how we see the period ahead. It has been no easy ride, particularly for Enoch Godongwana and myself, who have done most of the road shows.

Workers want to know the content of the Nedlac agreement. Some question the mandating process, others accuse us or rushing the process unnecessarily.

Of course others have accepted the fact that we did our best; that we were constantly reporting to the Cosatu Exco, where regions and affiliates are present, that we were mandated by this structure and that if we did not settle and start the drafting process, the employers' agenda would have succeeded.

In the last issue you were informed of the agreement. In it Cosatu had the following reservations and disagreements:

  • LIFO being the primary part of the criteria in instances of retrenchment.
This will either be incorporated into the bill now or later when the code of dismissals based on "operational" requirements is drafted for incorporation into the LRA.
  • Sympathy strikes: Our objections are being dealt with. At the time of this report, the key outstanding issues were around ensuring that employers do not use the courts to delay the action and that all workers who should be taking part in sympathy strikes should by themselves decide on the form of action.
  • Code of Good Practice: The code has been substantially reworked in our favour. The areas we are trying to change relate to whether examples should be included or not.
  • Strikes over individual dismissals: The Exco has agreed that while our preference remains being silent on whether to strike or go for arbitration, it is not in our favour to leave it to power since the least organised or weak will be the main losers.
  • Paid time off: The current wording in the bill permits leave for union activities (both paid and unpaid) and leaves determination of number to power or arbitration. Hopefully the parliamentary process will make the matter more clear.
  • Socio-economic strikes: our reservations have been dealt with.
  • Severance pay: The requirement for employers to pay a minimum amount has been achieved. Our focus now is on whether that minimum will be a week (as in the bill now) or a month.
  • Scab labour: This is the only area where there has been no outright victory. We hope the parliamentary process may resolve when notice should be given (after referral or after commencement of a strike). Should that fail, we will call for deletion of the notice period. The battle will have to continue beyond the new law.
From this brief synopsis it is clear that any delay will not be in the interest of the labour movement.

Let me also take the opportunity to welcome CWIU workers into the family of centralised bargaining. It was not an easy battle, yet it was achieved. Our next focus is in the retail, paper and the food industries.

A word of appreciation to my co-negotiators: Kgalema Motlanthe, Muzi Buthelezi, Vusi Nhlapo and Ebrahim Patel (who is still recovering from a car accident). Without you we would not have made any gains. The overtime and travels we endured were not in vain. To the rest of the affiliates, your support is appreciated. Your big role now is to take joint responsibility for the outcome and to tell your members that we acted based on your mandates.

To our women who went to Beijing, we hope you will take the struggle for the issues agreed on there into the federation and the affiliates.

If I had drafted the LRA the outcome would have been different. As a negotiated document, it is a victory for workers. As I said before: that which we did not get, we did not give away. If anything, we reduced the power of capital.

The battle ahead lies in our ability to ensure the practice of what is in the bill. Failure to do so will be a rebuke of those workers who came out in their thousands during the LRA mass demonstrations in June.

- Sam Shilowa

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Help build Cosatu

I hereby beg your assistance in reviving or making Cosatu live in my township. Workers here are not aware of their rights as workers. Here are the unions that I want to start here: domestic workers, garage workers, petrol jockeys, cafe/shop workers, furniture shops, liquor outlets, butchery, provincial roads departments, hospitals/clinics, Afdelingsraad roads department.

I would be happy to get your response in this regard as workers is all thinking that the struggle for their rights are over. I will be euphoric if you can assist me to make the unions under Cosatu live.

Simon Mata,

At present Steynsburg falls under Cosatu's new Eastern Cape region. You can contact the office at phone number (0431) 43-1951/2 for assistance in building Cosatu affiliates in your area. Their address is 7 Gladstone Street, 304 Camel House, East London. (See story about the new region on page 8)

Health and safety threat

I seek advice on the problems of Mr Ellius Nyembezi and David Makhuane.

Firstly, the problem of Mr Ellius Nyembezi. This worker was ill and went to the doctor. The doctor examined him and gave him three days sick leave and told him to report to work again after the third day. The doctor then reported Mr Nyembezi's ill health to the management.

At our company we have reformed the Workers' Committee into a structure that can defend and take up worker ssues. The problem is that management did not give the Workers' Committee the doctor's statement or a copy thereof. Instead management claimed that they did not receive any sickness report concerning Mr Nyembezi from the doctor.

We as the Workers' Committee then requested management to explain to us why they say the doctor did not give them any sickness report of Mr Nyembezi.

Management then claimed they didn't know. We have reported the issue to our union, Cawu, in Klerksdorp.

Please advise us to what steps we can take to resolve Mr Nyembezi's problem.

Secondly, the problem of Mr Sello David Makhuane. This is a big issue to us, to such an extent that the workers called a strike in order for it to be resolved. This worker had an accident on 14 February 1995. The time of the accident was 16:45 hours. In the accident, Mr Makhuane injured his left hand's point finger. At the hospital, they decided to amputate his finger because the bone of the finger was shattered.

The management told the Committee that Makhuane was classified as a temporary worker and did not enjoy permanent worker status. Since the accident, they have stopped him from working at the company. Until now, management have not given him even a cent for the injury.

We have reported this problem to our union, but the worker was not a union member. He has worked only five months. He started work on 30 January 1995.

There is at the moment no agreement between the company and the union. So the union does not have enough power to push the case.

We need advice from you.

MF Tshwane,

Cawu national organiser, Thabo Morale, responds:

We wish to thank the Shopsteward for giving us an opportunity to respond to the allegations made by cde F Tshwane.

Cde Tshwane is our Klerksdorp branch treasurer, who is supposed to know the proper channels of raising complaints within the union structures before he seeks assistance elsewhere. I wish to call on all comrades to exhaust internal channels in the union, before they write articles for publication.

This should in no way be construed as a form of censorship by our union. We fully support freedom of expression in whatever form, and welcome any constructive criticism that will build us into a strong organisation.

The comrade reported the matter of cde Nyembezi to our local organiser in Klerksdorp. The cde took up the matter of cde Nyembezi's non-payment for his sick leave and/or days, and was told that cde Nyembezi was paid for the three days he was off sick. Management further advanced proof of payment to the organiser and this was communicated to cde Tshwane.

As for the doctor reporting cde Nyembezi's ill-health to management and not to the Workers' Committee, the doctor's duty is to issue a report to both cde Nyembezi and management. Obviously, the Workers Committee could request the report from either of the two parties. However, we still call upon cde Tshwane to liaise with our branch office and if he doesn't get any satisfaction, contact our regional secretary in our Johannesburg offices.

Mr Sello David Makhuane was a non-union member as cde Tshwane indicates. By implication, cde Tshwane implores Cawu to attend to non-members' problems.

The matter was also reported to our local organiser. The cde wrote a letter to management requesting information from them on the accident and injury.

The company's response was that they had no employee of Mr Makhuane's name in their records. Cde Tshwane was advised of management's response, and asked to come and/or send Mr Makhuane to the union offices to give further information regarding the injury. This has not happened to date, and our local official is still waiting patiently for the cdes.

His case will be followed up, if the union official can be provided with the required information.

In conclusion, I wish to state that the power of the union is indeed in the factory where cde Tshwane is based and not in the Berman Centre offices in Klerksdorp!

Retrenchment problem

Kindly help us with the following problems as our union organiser in Pietersburg is not doing anything about it. Although we have complained to him on several occasions he seems to us to be siding with management and only gives us false promises which he does not fulfill every time we call upon him.

In January 1995, eight workers were retrenched at Pennels in Louis Trichardt. We told the Numsa organiser, Mr. Mapetla Mamabulo, in advance of the intention of management to retrench so that he could come and negotiate with management about the problem. If it was impossible to achieve the goal, he must negotiate the retrenchment package. He agreed but did not come and our co-workers were retrenched without representatives. When we asked him later he said he referred the matter to the industrial court. But up to now we have never heard anything about it.

In March 1995, 14 of our co-workers were retrenched and we told him in advance but he did not come. Later he told us the same story that he will send the matter to court, but up to now there have been no results about the problems.

On 3 April 1995, 27 people were retrenched and we again told the organiser to come. Yet again the same thing happened. He told us he will take the matter to the industrial court.

Our major problem is that they are deducting two pensions from our weekly salaries. The first one is Area pension, which we know nothing about and the second one is Ordinary pension.

We have complained about the Area pension and have taken industrial action including a strike, which the organiser stopped with the threat that we will all be fired if we do not obey his instruction. We stopped and only won one demand of working short hours as our working time has been cut. We are working shorter hours and are paid on hourly rates. We were told that the Area pension will be deducted weekly for three years up to 1997.

The problem with this pension is that when a person is retrenched he is not going to get all his money. The most penalised are the workers who started in 1983, who when retrenched are getting less than R143 lump sum, while the workers who started in 1990 are getting more than R900.

The second problem with the second pension is that a person takes more than two years to get it, which leaves some people, mostly women who are sole bread winners, to wait for two years for their hard earned money without income. The poor worker must satisfy the Metal Industries that he or she has not worked at any industrial company for two years within the period of his unemployment.

Most of our workers are women and sole bread winners. How they can survive waiting for two years without other income is beyond my mental comprehension.

We jointly called for a strike for our demands to be addressed as our sweetheart shopsteward does not want to deal with them. But to our surprise, the organiser stopped us with the threat that the union cannot help us and we would all be fired.

We had to obey his threat although our fellow workers are continuing to be retrenched on a daily basis.

Comrade Moses Mosedami,
Numsa, Louis Trichardt

Numsa Northern Transvaal regional secretary, Sam Tsiane, responds:

We have conducted an investigation into this matter. Our findings are that there has been some misunderstanding of the facts or at least impatience on the part of comrade Mosedami and our members at Pennels.

Comrade Mapetla Mamabolo (Pietersburg local organiser) was on leave until January 15 1995 and on his return he discovered that our members at Pennels were retrenched without notifying the union. Cde Mamabolo tried to intervene by proposing a meeting with the company with the intention to avoid the retrenchment and/or to negotiate a retrenchment package.

The company refused because the workers had already instructed a firm of consultants, Sam Mashamba & Associates, to act on their behalf. Two meetings had already been held between the company and the consultants. Cde Mamabolo was also told that the matter had already been referred to department of labour for the establishment of a conciliation board under Section 35 of the LRA and later referred to the department of labour (by the same consultant).

Despite persuasion, both the consultants and the retrenched workers refused that Numsa handle the matter. Cde Mamabolo met the remaining workers on 16 February 1995 and informed them about this matter. He didn't mention the fact that the matter would be referred to the industrial court. However, on the same day, cde Mamabolo and the shopstewards met management to discuss the proposed retrenchment of Edward Sadiki and seven others. Cde Mamabolo and the shopstewards could not reach agreement with management and a dispute was declared. The matter was referred to the Industrial Council of the metal industry.

On 27 March 1995, cde Mamabolo and the retrenched workers went to the Industrial Council for a hearing. The employer was absent and therefore we mandated our legal officer to file papers for Section 46 of the LRA (i.e. unfair labour practice).

Late in March, the management proposed a meeting with the union to be held on 15 April 1995 to discuss the retrenchment of Thomas Kwinda and 16 others and a follow-up meeting was held on 4 May 1995, which reached a deadlock.

On 5 May 1995, cde Mamabolo met most of the comrades who were retrenched in February and April to take their statements and explain to them the process and the duration of the Industrial Council and at that time they seemed to have understood.

Arrear Pensions: The management didn't deduct pension fund contributions from the workers' wages and the company didn't put in their share of the contribution since 1985. Therefore the Industrial Council prosecuted the company and the court ordered the company to reimburse the arrears between 1985 and 1997. As a result, the arrears deduction is reflected on the workers' payslips. But the employer is also repaying its share of the arrears.

We have requested a printout of all Pennels employees at Metal Industry Provident Fund (MIPF) to check if there is any discrepancy. According to the rules, MIPF withdrawal benefits are similar to all the big Provident Fund schemes.

Strikes: While we support workers who go on strike for their legitimate demands, it should be borne in mind that in the last 18 months many workers were dismissed because of illegal strikes. Our experience is that employers and the Industrial Court are hostile towards illegal strikes and in this context it is therefore not advisable to embark on an illegal strike.

Although we are reluctant to accept it, Pennels management claim that the company is in serious financial troubles. They have indicated that Standard Bank (which they owe) and the Industrial Development Co-operation have taken a decision to close the doors of the establishment on 3 June 1995. We have therefore mandated cde Mamabolo to intervene as a matter of urgency.

Police should apologise

I would like to say something about the June 16 Youth Day commemoration.

I feel it is very important to say something about this day. Many of us workers today are victims of 16 June 1976, although I understand that we must take this day as a National Day for youth in general and not only for victims of 16 June 1976.

I think this is very important and we need to respect this as a call from our government. We need to help our government to implement the call. We must recognise Youth Day as a day where all the youth of this country should come together and build an understanding between themselves as youth. Our government with its ministers should work very hard to achieve this.

Starting next year, I think it is proper that our honorable ministers, especially of Education and of Safety and Security, should jointly take this day into their hands.

What happened on 16 June 1976 involved both the Education and Safety and Security departments. The issue was about education and after that the Safety and Security department was involved in the shootings.

My feelings is that these two departments must take June 16 and own it.

They must arrange rallies all over the country on this day and call the youth of all organisations, churches and those not in organisations together.

The first thing that they should say at these rallies is to apologise for what happened in the past, particularly on June 16. I think this will help them in closing the gap between the police and the youth - they may even be able to close the gap completely.

We understand the challenges facing comrade minister Sydney Mufamadi, our former Cosatu assistant general secretary. And we appreciate what he has done up to now in changing the image of the South African Police Service, but I feel that the progress within cde Mufamadi's office could be multiplied.

My proposal for these rallies is that the police generals and commissioners should address the people and make those apologies, not the ministers, because it would look like a political cover-up. What I'm saying is subject to correction. I am just putting my view across, to show our comrades in parliament who voted for that we are with them and love them.

I'm not making this proposal for all the years to come, just that they must start this to bring the youth of this country together, because the police were playing a major role in dividing the people of this country.

We must not work alone in building the people of this country. The police must now take seriously the instruction to build this country as they were serious when they took the instruction from the apartheid regime to divide the people of this country.

As you can see now, they love this day and even want to celebrate it. We know that the majority of Cosatu workers who fought for this day have been dismissed in their work. So it is clear that the police should apologise.

Bongani John Nxumalo,
NUM Impala branch,

Scared public servant

I am asking for information and assistance. My job situation makes me scared. I am a public servant in the Department of Agriculture, Northern Province.

My problem is that there are rumours in the media. I'm frustrated and I don't know where to find a solution. I'm working in a conflict situation.

KA Meso, Juno,
Northern Province

Comrade, please contact the Northern Province office of Nehawu for assistance. The phone number is (0152) 2911210. The physical address is Room 208, Van Riebeecks Building, 9 Robbler Street, Pietersburg. The postal address is PO Box 5144, Pietersburg North.

Let's fight abortion

I have been listening to political parties debating the issue of abortion in the media. Some are saying abortion must be abolished, while others say no to abolishing abortion.

I'm calling on all the workers who are reading The Shopsteward to understand the word "abortion" and go and teach those who do not understand. When I'm talking about abortion, I'm talking about the killer, the one who has killed an innocent person who has not had the opportunity to enjoy his or her life on earth.

God is against the killings and many people who abort are unaware that they are murderers, because they are killing a person who does not have any sin on earth. If we say abortion should be legalised, then we are saying our daughters should make love at any hour, at any time with any man available.

Therefore, let's fight against the legalisation of abortion in the new constitution. Secondly, we have to look again at the economy, if we allow doctors to do abortions.

I believe that the right to life is for everyone, even the babies not yet born. I believe again that a baby is a present from God. Those guilty of abortion will be punished by God.

We must stop abortion and fight crime in South Africa.

Ishmael Mukhari,

Yes, abortion is a killer - illegal abortions have killed thousands of women - mostly those from the poorest communities. Even though abortion has been illegal for most women, every year about 200,000 women have illegal or backstreet abortions. Apart from those that die, many others are left permanently damaged, both physically and psychologically. This situation can only change if abortion is made legal.

The abortion debate is around women's right to choose. It is about women's control over their own reproductive rights. No-one is arguing that women must have abortions. However, there are strong arguments in favour of women's right to decide for themselves whether or not to terminate an early pregnancy. The state has a responsibility to give those who choose abortion the access to safe, legal abortions, as well as pre and post-abortion counselling. Many countries have legalised abortion. This has not in any way led to a situation where daughters or any other women "make love at any hour, at any time, with any man available." For more detailed arguments, please also refer to the article on abortion in the June/July 1995 issue of Shopsteward.

Privatisation vs socialism (Winning letter)

I would like to air my views on privatisation versus socialism. Affiliates and Cosatu as a federation took resolutions against privatisation.

Privatisation of state assets will prove disastrous for workers, trade unions, socio-economic development and would totally destroy our goal of a socialist state.

In order to reach our goal of socialism, we resolved that one of the key means to employ is nationalisation. The second major pillar to pave our socialist road was to be the equal distribution of the economy through the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP). Armed with these weapons, every socialist concluded victory. Even the collapse of glasnost and perestroika in the former Soviet Union did not deter us from this strong belief.

The political freedom of April 1994 gave us strength and hope since the apartheid regime has been defeated and our partners in the alliance will give way to our major goal - socialism.

Contrary to our belief, the African National Congress as the government openly came out in support of privatisation. And what did we say? Nothing.

Even today, the Government of National Unity, under the leadership of the ANC, speaks loudly and clearly about its support for privatising major companies i.e. Telkom, Escom, etc. On the other hand, little is done or said by us as worker leaders in support of nationalisation as opposed to privatisation.

Surprisingly, former Cosatu leaders in government are now boldly supporting privatisation on the basis of South African economic development. One wonders what effect will privatisation of companies like Escom have in the urban and rural areas eagerly awaiting delivery of the RDP. What effect will this have on job creation?.

Sometimes I ask myself a number of questions that I fail to answer. I ask myself why did we make resolutions after resolutions knowing that 12 months down the line they will be ignored and we would not raise a finger in defence of our resolutions. Are our concerns no longer applicable in the current scenario?

Are we really serious about socialism or are we much more serious about developing the economy at the expense of the workers and the working class in particular?

It is rather unfortunate that we decide to opt for an arms folding approach when we should be taking the lead in shaping the economy of our country as workers and stand up to defend our years of struggle for socialism.

I am well aware that the points I raise are outdated and lack intellectual reasoning. I know my sentiments are not shared by others who believe I'm living in the past, but I ask: Do we as Cosatu still see our objective as socialism in South Africa?

Sphelele N Zuma,
Numsa organiser,
Durban North local,

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Worker control not remote control

What happened to worker control? asks Luleka Simon, Nehawu's Eastern Cape regional administrator

I would like to make an assessment and everyone is welcome to criticise me if necessary.

I will start with the labour scenario, especially the public sector. It is clear that labour organisations are strong but there is this element of shopstewards not attending meetings of local structures of Cosatu to collectively build and strengthen our campaigns and programmes with other affiliates.

It is an embarrassment and a disgrace to find out that some affiliates send officials to most of these activities. What happened to worker control?

I agree that officials are supposed to attend, but the situation also needs worker participation and input. Some comrades regard themselves as worker leadership, but don't know what Cosatu stands for or when local meetings take place.

Another thing that makes me sick is that comrades who were elected to a position either fail to report back or do not attend any meetings. Let us come up with solutions, especially in the public sector unions.

The workers struggle is not yet over. We must not work with "remote control" or by getting reports from the radio or TV on what is happening in the unions or in Cosatu.

We still have some problems brought about by uncertainty and fear of rationalisation and misinformation campaigns. Some groups within our ranks view liberation as bringing about self-enrichment. People are suffering from poverty and deprivation. Some ministers and MEC's remain unsympathetic at the expense of our progressive masses.

Relations with provincial governments are not excellent and some MP's are less interested and unsympathetic towards organised labour. Some individuals in parliament are encouraging workers to form staff associations. We are aware of those who are doing this. It should be clear, even to them, that we are a tried and tested organisation and we will fight.

We have lost hope and interest in some of them, and we know that this Government of National Unity (GNU) is characterised by groups. The question of singing the song of the implementation of the RDP is abused by those who do not have its successful implementation at heart.

We must ensure that we participate in those meetings and not be frustrated by the enemies of democracy who are working to confuse our people to not vote in the local government elections. People in KwaZulu/Natal must work together in building our nation and the new South Africa.

Taxi drivers must also work together and not be tools of the Third Force, who are on a campaign to destroy this country and make South Africa ungovernable. In the end, all of us are workers, taxi drivers included.

They must sit down and negotiate or look at other mechanisms of resolving those differences.

We must also put into place structures to democratise our workplaces, ensure the implementation of affirmative action, improve worker to worker solidarity and consolidate our relationship with international unions.

Improvement is achieved through training and building capacity within our ranks. And education is the most empowering worker tool. Worker discussions on how to build our organs must take place. Comrades must come up with more suggestions.

The transitional period brings with it a lot of tensions and anger as well as weak organisational structures. We must therefore have commitment and responsibility.

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Ubuso Ngubuso

Tell us our rights

We as Base Trek BP and Spraypainters workers want to know about the money deducted from our paysheets. We also have some other points which we want to know about:

  • From the time we joined the union, when going to the doctor we do not get the money management deducts, even though we produce a doctor's letter.
  • We get a pay increase whenever the management deems it fit, but the increase is never what one could call an increase.
  • We need more information about worker benefits (normal and overtime pay, work conditions, contributions, deductions, etc.) because we receive the same amount for both overtime and normal time.
  • We as workers are not satisfied with the salary of R180 per week for the service of 10 years. We have wives and children to look after.
  • We must do any job they want us to do, even though we were divided into jobs we can do.
  • There are unqualified workers who are being forced to do the jobs of qualified workers with the promise they will be sent to school to qualify in that job.
  • We do not get safety shoes or overalls.
Please tell us if it is possible, if you have been dismissed or laid off, that the company can re-employ you as a new employee and after four months employ you permanently?

We hope for a speedy response and will be very glad if you can send a representative of the union to visit us soon.

Yours in the struggle for workplace democracy,

William Belu and others
Numsa De Aar branch

Bosses must comply

Dear Comrade

Thank you for your letter requesting information regarding the motor industry. All the information requested is in the NICMI Main Agreement and you can get the details from the regional Numsa office at tel. no. (0531) 811 639. The regional secretary's name is Johannes Hlalele.

Numsa has sent all its members in the motor sector copies of Numsa Motor News. This gives information about all the new wages and working conditions. If you don't have a copy, contact Numsa.

In the meantime, here is a brief response to the content of your letter.

1. Sick leave payment

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act says most workers would get an average of 10 days paid sick leave per year. However, should your employer belong to the bosses' organisation, then you would receive 20 days paid sick leave at 75% of your wages. You would however have to claim this from the industrial court yourself. If you have a problem, Numsa will assist.

2. Wage increases

The industrial council wage negotiations have been concluded and should be effective from 3 July 1995, according to the Department of Labour. Numsa members will be able to get the details of the agreement from their local Numsa office. If, however, these wage adjustments do not in a significant way affect wage levels at your plants, further wage increases can be negotiated at plant level.

3. Worker benefits

The overtime rate for this industry is time and a half (X 1 1Ä2). Overtime must be paid after the first 45 hours. Any further benefits can be checked by phoning Numsa or checking the Main Agreement. On the question of overalls and boots, the health and safety laws say that, where an employer requires workers to wear these, he must supply it free of charge.

4. Job grading

Many bosses exploit workers by forcing them to do jobs from a grade which has a higher salary rate than what the worker is paid. As a rule, workers should not refuse to carry out the instructions. They should contact the Numsa office which will ensure that the industrial council sends an agent to your company who should move your grade and rate of pay up, and fine the company for unauthorised use of labour.

5. Unfair dismissal

Bosses do not have the right to dismiss you unfairly, or make unauthorised deductions from your wages. Should either of these occur, contact your union immediately.

Should your bosses not comply with the above broad provisions, contact your union, which would have every right to "donner" them.

Yours in the struggle,

Tony Ehrenreich,
Numsa National Motor Coordinator

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Unions on the outside looking in

COSATU affiliates have made significant strides in winning demands for centralised bargaining. By mid-1995 most affiliates had won centralised bargaining for at least sections of their membership. It is determined struggle that made this possible. TGWU media officer Malcolm Ray and Marcus Toerien assess the campaign.

Why centralised bargaining?

At its 1991 congress, Cosatu resolved to campaign for national, industry-based bargaining institutions. This was a logical extension of the federation's 1985 founding congress resolution on industrial unionism, and the policy of 'one union, one industry'. Centralised bargaining is necessary to combat the division among workers at company, sectoral and industry levels, and to build solidarity. Bargaining only at plant level has the effect of widening wage differentials. Centralised bargaining has the advantage of bridging the wage gap, concentrating union resources, and making it possible to deal with industry policy and industrial restructuring.

The current situation

A number of unions have fought militant battles for centralised bargaining, resulting either in the creation of industrial councils, or in centralised bargaining forums at various levels (group, region or industry). These have largely been the result of struggles of individual affiliates, with Cosatu playing some co-ordinating role.

The new Department of Labour has shown a willingness to facilitate discussions between unions and employers, as happened in the goods transport, motor and the chemical industries.

Where unions have organised well and backed campaigns with action, the gains have often been greater. TGWU's campaign brought about agreements to establish industrial councils, with the possibility of extending wage agreements to non-parties. On the other hand, unions such as Fawu, Ppwawu and Saccawu have so far run low-key campaigns, or have not campaigned at all. The result is limited or no commitment from employers to centralised bargaining in the sectors they organise.


The overall strategy of unions has been to force employers into in-principle agreements on centralised bargaining forums, then to negotiate the form this should take. One way unions have enforced this strategy has been to halt plant-level bargaining. CWIU did this and recently won the right to bargain centrally (see box) after an intensive campaign. Saccawu's bargaining conference in September may consider a similar strategy.

Last year TGWU stepped up industrial action as part of its campaign for centralised bargaining. A proliferation of strikes and demonstrations eventually forced employers to agree to formally constitute industrial councils in each sector. Similarly, after a militant campaign in 1993, Sactwu won its demand for the amalgamation of regionally-based clothing industrial councils into a national clothing industrial council. However, unions like Ppwawu, which has campaigned for centralised bargaining forums (in paper & pulp and printing) or for admission to existing forums (furniture), have consistently met with opposition from employers. (The union was recently admitted to the Transvaal furniture industrial council but remains excluded from the other regional furniture councils.) What problems do those unions which have yet to achieve centralised bargaining face? The weakness of some union strategies and the low level of organisation in some sectors is a key organisational obstacle. Another obstacle is the tendency among employers to sub-contract their services and operations, resulting in bargaining units fragmenting. An additional problem is resistance by employers and competing conservative unions to centralised bargaining; and, of course, inadequate representation in bargaining forums.

The fact that labour laws are now to be extended to previously excluded parts of the country, such as the former bantustans, means that many more workers now stand to be covered by industrial council agreements and wage determinations (see article on the Integration of Labour Laws Act elsewhere in this issue).

New LRA, new options

In the absence of a legal duty to bargain in the new LRA, unions will continue the struggle for centralised bargaining. While some workers and union officials are unhappy at not having achieved the demand for legislated centralised bargaining, the new LRA will soon be a reality. The real challenge to unions will be the extent to which its existing provisions can be used to further the struggle for centralised bargaining.

In terms of the proposed Act, a bargaining council (the successor to industrial councils) can be set up if a union (or a number of unions) represents at least 30% of the workers in the proposed industry. While the definition of the scope of an industry finally rests with Nedlac, the possibility exists for unions to table the demand for their creation. So, for example, while Saccawu may have organised only about 12% of workers in the catering industry, workers nationally, in excess of 30% of Gauteng's catering workers, may be Saccawu members.

It will therefore be possible for a catering industry bargaining council to be established in Gauteng, and for this to serve as a springboard to other areas as organising picks up.

In the short term, such an incremental approach may further widen wage gaps as some workers get an earlier start to centralised bargaining than other workers in the same industry. But careful planning can manage the discrepancies and reduce (and ultimately eliminate) them over time.

An advantage will be to allow the union time to build the capacity to handle centralised negotiations and the greater organisational responsibilities that go with it; planning, research, more thorough processes of mandating and reporting back, and coming to grips with more complex issues such as industrial restructuring.

On the other hand, where other, non-Cosatu unions are also organised in an industry, Cosatu affiliates may have to build alliances in order to achieve the 30% threshold. It will serve to demonstrate the commitment of Cosatu unions to all workers in their industry, whether members or not. By campaigning around the demand, we expose those unions who refrain from joining campaigns for centralised bargaining in order to avoid losing members.

A further possibility may be the new role the Department of Labour envisages for wage boards. Many employers will not want a wage determination imposed on them where an award genuinely takes into account the ravages of inflation and the decline in workers' living standards. This opens the possibility of pressurising employers to either enter into negotiations at the level of the wage board itself, or that a bargaining council (or some other bargaining arrangement) be established in which to conduct negotiations. Either way, the objective of creating an industry forum becomes a possibility.

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A better life for all

The African National Congress (ANC) launched its local government elections manifesto in Alexandra in August, with a message to communities across South Africa: "Let's make it happen where we live".

Speaking at the launch, ANC president Nelson Mandela said the ANC had been working hard since the elections of April 1994 to introduce the changes people voted for. He said the ANC had brought about more change in 15 months than the National Party had in 45 years.

Mandela said the ANC-led government of national unity had introduced free health care for pregnant women and young children; established school feeding schemes; brought water and electricity to communities that previously did not have any; and had begun finding ways of getting land for rural communities.

At last the country had a single education system, he said. "We are phasing in free education and our children are back in their classrooms." And, for the first time in years, there was real economic growth.

"We are proud of our achievements. But the ANC is honest enough to acknowledge that more could have been done. The local government elections give us the chance to put this right," Mandela said.

The ANC would work together with communities for change. "The ANC recognises that communities are ready to take control over their own lives, and share with government the responsibility for bringing about change and managing their daily lives. ANC councillors will be your partners in change," he said.

The ANC manifesto said that through democratic local councils, communities would be able to make their areas better places to live in. "Through them [democratic local councils] we will decide on delivery of water to our houses; where new electricity supplies and sanitation will be put in; where streets will be laid; where schools, clinics and houses will be built; and how rubbish will be removed from streets and public areas.

"They will make sure that there is a system of fair rents and services for everyone. Together we can break down the barriers that have kept us apart for so long and build truly South African communities in the cities, towns and villages," the manifesto said.

"The ANC's history of grassroots community involvement, our track record of bringing people together and working with them, and our vision of a better life for all, will be our guiding principles as we work in local government," the manifesto said.

The manifesto also stressed the quality of ANC local government candidates:

"ANC candidates are people from your area, who have always worked and sacrificed for a better life for the people in your community... Our candidates are representatives of the people. They come from all walks of life and bring a wide range of skills and experience to local government.

We have more women candidates than any other party, because we recognise that women are important in building a better community."

ANC deputy secretary general Cheryl Carolus stressed the importance of local government. She said the absence of democratic local government was the major obstacle in the delivery of the RDP: "Every day we don't have democratic local government, we're holding services back from our people."

Carolus said the election would involve people directly in the process of government. She urged politicians in the Western Cape and KwaZulu/Natal to let the elections happen: "We can't let petty political fights stand in the way of people who don't have roofs over their heads."

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Let's make it happen

The countdown to local government elections on November 1 has begun. Cosatu national organiser and North East Rand mayor Isaac Mahlangu spoke to ANC deputy general secretary Cheryl Carolus about the elections

What is your assessment of the registration process?

In many ways the local government elections will be more important than the elections of 27 April 1994. Almost 70% of the potential voters have registered up to now. But this means that 30% of our people have not registered, and would not have had a chance to make their voices heard. But it was agreed that registration will be opened again from 11-25 September.

We urge everyone who has not yet registered to make use of this second chance. We call on shopstewards, members of Cosatu affiliates, the ANC and Sanco to help ordinary people to check if their names are on the roll. Let us get 100% registration.

How has ANC addressed the problem of border disputes? Will this affect just the metropolitan area or the TLCs around these cities?

We managed to solve the problem in Johannesburg. In Cape Town and Durban there seems to be no effort by the provincial governments to solve the problems. In Johannesburg the problem was resolved because the provincial government wants elections to take place. And so Gauteng has used the means at its disposal, including the courts, which are impartial, to resolve the dispute. Gauteng realises that it cannot deprive people of local government.

In some areas there will be difficulties in holding elections on November 1. But this should not affect elections in the TLCs around the cities. In the areas where elections are not possible on November 1, they can take place any time before March 1996. We have a problem with the NP in the Western Cape and the IFP in KwaZulu Natal. They haven't sorted out the problems in the cities, so they want to deprive people in the rest of those provinces from voting.

So we urge the NP and IFP not to hold back development and democracy from the people in the local areas simply because the politicians in some cities haven't sorted out their problems. We cannot get water to people, we cannot start building houses, we cannot start collecting the rubbish in the area, we can't install taps, until such time as we have proper local government.

What are the underlying reasons for these border disputes?

The issue is not about dividing the city up in the best way. It is about trying to keep power in the hands of those who had power over the years and who do not deserve it because they were never elected. In Durban there is an IFP provincial government, in Cape Town, an NP provincial government. We are convinced that these two parties do not want to see democratic, non-racial local government emerging in these cities.

The NP still largely sees itself as representing white people who benefitted from the old municipal structures. They are not prepared to introduce new structures that will give workers a say in how the wealth they help to generate should be spent. They want to keep decisions and wealth where it has been these past years. This is why they want to delay elections.

In Kwazulu Natal, the IFP has for a long time appointed traditional leaders who are not representative of the people. Now the IFP is worried that people will be able to vote for the people they want. There is a good chance that those who have kept development away from our areas will not succeed in the elections. This is why the IFP doesn't want local government elections to go ahead.

Why has the ANC insisted on 50% representation by women on the ANC list?

The alliance feels that the people who represent us on any structure, but especially at local level, must reflect the face of South Africa. The local lists must reflect the people of that local area. Women make up more than 50% of the population. So the balance must reflect the racial and gender proportions of our country.

In the towns, divorced or single women have difficulty in getting houses.

In the rural areas, it is women who run the households. And it is women who spend many hours gathering firewood because there is no electricity. The people who experience the problems must make their voices heard, so that we can deal with the problems.

How do the local elections differ from the national elections?

Our new constitution gives us government at national level, at provincial level, and at local level. The national government redistributes resources at a national level.

But the only people who can make it happen, the people who install your electricity or put taps in your yard, are the local council. The hands and the feet of the RDP are in our local areas. What we are voting for now is the structure that will do the practical work.

What will ANC councillors be doing at local level?

ANC councillors will be expected to listen to our communities, to understand what their problems are and to work together with local communities to improve the lives of our people. The only way to implement the RDP is at local level. But you can't do it by just sitting in a local council.

What is the main thrust of the ANC's election campaign?

To create a better life for all and to make it happen in the areas where we live. The local councillors we elect will be our direct link with provincial and national government.

Mayibuye reported tensions between the ANC and Sanco in some areas. Are these problems being sorted out?

There have been tensions in a few areas. ANC members have a responsibility to overcome these tensions. Some problems arise from misunderstandings or between personalities. There are no political or principled differences. At national and provincial levels we have been able to deal with these problems. In some instances problems have arisen because of a lack of information. We all have a duty to pass on information so that we avoid these kinds of tensions.

How can workers and shopstewards participate in the election campaign?

Cosatu serves on the national and provincial election task teams and on the list committees at different levels. Shopstewards and workers have gained many skills through their involvement in union activities. So we want to ask workers and shopstewards to use their skills, to get involved in the election campaign at local level, to ensure we elect the best people and to help those who have not registered to do so. Why should workers vote for the ANC? What does the ANC intend to do for workers?

The presidential lead projects have prioritised the problems of working people, of the unemployed, of peasants in the rural areas, of women, of the most disadvantaged. The ANC's membership is made up of people like this, including members of Cosatu affiliates. Workers should vote for the ANC so that they can continue to direct the ANC, and that the ANC people they elect work with them and are accountable to them.

I would ask: What does the ANC intend to do with workers?

Workers in Cosatu have many skills. They can mobilise, they can organise, they can help our elected councillors remain accountable to their communities. To make the RDP happen where we live, the ANC will need the skills of organised workers, and the organised civic movement.

Why will there be three different ballot forms in some areas?

Cities like Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria, the greater Vaal area, and the north-east Rand control a lot of money, and are so big that we need to sub-divide them. Everyone here will have two votes for the TLC.

But these areas will also have metropolitan government. So the third vote will be for the TMC, the transitional metropolitan council.

Villages and farms which are not part of TLCs at the moment will have a different system. Rural voters will vote for a rural local council (RLC).

There may also be a district council which will co-ordinate the RLCs in a district. Rural voters will only vote for a party on a ballot paper, whereas in the urban areas people will vote for a party and an individual in the ward. There will be no wards in the rural areas. So we need a lot of education so that people know why they will be voting, how they will be voting and who they will be voting for.

Some traditional leaders want a greater role for themselves. What is your view on this?

Local government elections are about electing local people to ensure that services are delivered at a local level. If they don't deliver, then people will not elect them next time around. Traditional leaders are not elected. It would be a mistake to make these two roles the same. In local elections parties stand against one another. It will be wrong for traditional leaders to become involved in party politics. Traditional leaders are respected for their unifying role, for being above party politics. We should not mix up the two roles. Once elected, will an ANC alliance candidate be accountable to the ANC or to the broader community he or she is serving? Any councillor is answerable to the community that elects her or him.

Every ANC councillor will be required to hold regular report-backs, people's forums etc. But as an alliance we must monitor our members serving in local councils. They must share with us the difficulties of their tasks and make us co-responsible in executing their jobs.

If a Sanco office bearer is elected to a local council as an ANC candidate, will that person need to resign as a Sanco office bearer?

Yes, they should resign. Any ratepayers' or residents' organisation office bearer should resign because the role of the local organisation is to serve as a watchdog. You can't serve on both at the same time as there would be a conflict of interests.

Some people ask, why vote for the ANC because there hasn't been effective delivery on the RDP, for example, in Katorus?

The communities which have benefitted from the RDP can tell you a long list of ways in which they've benefitted. The fact that we are feeding four million children a day so that they can study. The fact that women no longer die during childbirth because pregnant women and children under six receive free medical care.

It's true that all is not well in Katorus. But I was in Thokoza on June 16 and because of the presidential lead project, there is peace in the area, unlike before. Problems exist precisely because you don't have local government to, for example, oversee the rebuilding of homes destroyed during the violence. At the moment, there is no local government through which to channel development money. All the RDP projects will run into problems quite soon if we don't have local government structures in place.

Some residents blame the ANC for rent increases. Is this what Masakhane is all about?

Rent increases can only happen in consultation with the community.

Operation Masakhane is about uplifting people's lives. If as a result of Operation Masakhane, services are rendered which may or may not lead to rent increases, the community must have the right to say what they can afford. Masakhane means everybody must cough up. Every cent we don't pay means that we are preventing someone else from getting services.

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South Africa at the ILO

By Cosatu general secretary Sam Shilowa

In June this year, South Africa attended the 76th meeting of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). This was the second meeting since we were readmitted to the ILO. Unlike last year, however, South Africa was not seen as a special case. We were expected to contribute to the shaping of labour's position in the meeting and to play a leading role in defending trade union and human rights in the world. This expectation meant that, in certain instances, we were expected to perform tasks which are beyond our own capacities and capabilities.

South African Labour was represented by Sam Shilowa (principal delegate), Peter Dantjie, Connie September, Senzeni Zokwana, Dannhauser van der Merwe and Cunningham Ncqukana. In addition, there were comrades from NUM and the Cosatu International Officer Bangumsi Sifingo. Each of the official delegates were allocated a specific committee to attend: Application of standards: Peter Dantjie/Sam Shilowa; Homework: Connie September; Inspection: Dannhauser/ Cunningham); Health and Safety (mines): Zokwana; Plenary session: Sifingo.

Key issues dealt with in the various committees were: Application of standards (Peter Dantjie), Homework (Connie September), and Health and Safety (Paul Benjamin).

The inspection committee dealt with the need to extend the rights to workers employed in the homes of state officials. This means that inspectors should be allowed to ensure that their rights are not violated. Apart from the work at the ILO, we played an important role in developing Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU) and Southern African Trade Union Co-ordinating Council (SATUCC) positions on the Social Clause. We were all agreed that we are not talking about protectionism, but of defending the rights of workers in line with the core ILO Conventions. Our proposal for a system of monitoring and of looking at representation in the World Trade Orgnaisation (WTO) found favour with a lot of unions which are themselves thinking along the same lines. We also used the meeting to outline to the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), International confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), WCL and other unions our international policy resolutions. Both the WFTU and the ICFTU have committed themselves to come to South Africa to meet with us. We are also planning, together with the CGT, a process to engage with non-affiliated centres. Being back in the family of nations means that we have to start discussing ILO issues in our unions, and in the CEC. Unlike this year, we have to start developing our input for next year now to ensure that everybody knows in advance what is going to be discussed as well as what our positions are going to be.

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Homeworkers - a new trend in the world of work

by Cosatu vice president Connie September

The South African economy has undergone many changes in the last 10 years.

There was a high level of political instability, economic decline and the growth of the trade union movement. As unemployment grew, business and government increasingly unilaterally restructured the economy. The world of work silently developed its own trends.

These new trends included more part-time work, contract work and home-based work. Some of the reasons for this were that employers opted for further cheap labour, avoiding permanent employment and wanting flexible work performance. For workers, these jobs were a means of survival. Due to the high level of unemployment, many adopted the "something is better than nothing" approach.

The labour movement has not yet mastered this new labour trend in the form of extending worker rights to these workers, let alone ensuring permanent jobs.

The majority of workers affected by these trends are women, earning low wages, no proper work conditions and no social security.

Some women argue that home-based and part-time work is a means of balancing income and family responsibilities: "It shortens my working hours and brings my workplace home".

Contract work has become enemy number one of permanent employment.

Employers argue they can only offer jobs for short periods of time.

However, this has meant that many workers never become permanent employees - as contracts are renewed all the time - and employers avoid severance pay.

Home-based work or homeworkers, have mushroomed even more than part-time or contract work.

The following industries, amongst others, have seen an increase in homeworkers:

  • Mining industry: jewellery making etc.;
  • Metal: mechanical and artisan work in garages etc.;
  • Clothing/Textile: finishing of garments e.g. buttons, zips, embroidery, contracts to employers or own selling (The majority of home workers occur in this industry);
  • Transport: taxis;
  • Commercial: spaza shops, catering for big companies etc.
  • Crafts: paintings, beads, candle-making etc.

The international community has since 1970 been attempting to organise homeworkers into either trade unions or separate organisations. This international network, called Homenet operates in Asia, South and North America, Britain, Australia etc. They are the prime movers in calling for the recognition and rights of these workers.

ILO Conference

This campaign was taken to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to adopt international standards on homework. A decision was taken by the ILO governing body in November 1993 to place the question on the agenda in 1995. The first stage took the form of drawing up a preliminary report for discussion. This report examined the laws and practices in various countries. It was sent, together with a questionnaire, to governments of ILO member states. Governments had to consult labour and business before finalising their responses, which had to be forwarded by September 1994. SA was not part of this process.

Countries were divided between those opting for international standards and those who preferred a convention supplemented by a recommendation. Some governments and employers argued that there should be no standards at all for homeworkers. The major questions in harmonising the treatment of homeworkers centred around the following:

  • The measures to be used (instrument) to adopt standards;
  • The definition of home work and homeworkers;
  • The ingredients of a national policy for homeworkers after ratifying the convention (ILO agreement);
  • General provisions in the national policy, for example, bargaining, remuneration, hours of work.
The committee on home work, the proposed conclusions and the final resolution now need to be discussed for finalisation by countries. The next session of the ILO conference in 1996 will place home work on the agenda as a final convention.

South African challenge

The growth of home work needs to be researched properly and documented. A number of issues need to be debated: is it desirable to regulate homework?

Does the LRA sufficiently cover homeworkers? What proposals will labour make in this regard in negotiations on the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA)?

Mines safety and health

The 1995 annual ILO conference adopted a far-reaching Convention and Recommendation on Safety and Health in Mines. It is especially significant for our own mining industry because of its poor health and safety record and high fatalities. The Leon Commission, which investigated and reported on health and safety conditions on South African mines, has recommended an urgent and extensive review of the laws regulating it. The new ILO Convention and Recommendation will be one of the bench-marks used in drafting the new legislation.

The Convention and Recommendation

The Convention is a set of guidelines with which countries will have to comply once they ratify it. The Recommendation is not binding and generally deals with issues which could not be included in the Convention because of insufficient agreement. The key features of the Safety and Health in Mines Convention are:

  • Defining governments' obligations, ie. to establish a health and safety policy for mines; make laws and regulations to protect health and safety; establish appropriate agencies to enforce and monitor health and safety;
  • A recognition of important worker rights specific to their health and safety;
  • Setting out steps employers must take to eliminate or reduce risks to health and safety.
Obligations on governments

The development of a coherent policy on safety and health on the mines must be done with the social partners. This means that governments must work with representatives of trade unions and employer organisations to formulate, implement, and review the policy. The Government of National Unity has already appointed a working group to look at developing such a policy.

The laws and regulations which implement the provisions of the Convention must be supplemented by technical standards, guidelines, codes of practice and general guidance to workers and employers on how to comply with the law and work safely.

The activities of the health and safety inspectorate should include:

  • the inspection of mines;
  • the investigation of accidents and dangerous occurences;
  • the compilation and publication of statistics;
  • the suspension or restriction of mining on grounds of safety and health.
The laws must also provide effective penalties and corrective measures for the proper enforcement of health and safety standards.

Worker rights

The following worker rights are set out in the Convention:

  • to report accidents, dangerous occurences and hazards to the employer and to the inspectorate;
  • to request and obtain inspections and investigation where there is concern for health and safety;
  • to know and be informed of the hazards they face at work;
  • to obtain relevant information from the employer and the inspectorate;
  • to refuse to perform dangerous work;
  • to receive proper training;
  • to elect safety and health representatives.
Safety and health representatives selected by workers must have the right to:
  • represent workers on all aspects of health and safety;
  • consult with government agencies;
  • be consulted by the employer;
  • receive information and notices of accidents and dangerous occurences from the employer;
  • participate in inspections and investigations conducted by the employer and the inspectorate.
Employers' duties

The convention requires that employers take the following steps to deal with once a risk has been identified and its seriousness evaluated:

  • eliminate the risk;
  • if this cannot be achieved, controlling at source;
  • if this cannot be achieved, minimise it by designing safe work systems;
  • to the extent that the risk remains, employers must provide safe work systems.

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Trade union rights under attack

by Numsa national secretary Peter Dantjie

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) conference committee on the application of standards, which included representatives of government, employers and workers, considered the following:

  • reports on ratified ILO conventions;
  • reports on unratified conventions and on recommendations;
  • regular machinery for supervising the observance of obligations arising under or relating to conventions and recommendations;
  • report on committee of exports;
  • a general survey on protection against unjustified dismissal (termination of employment);
  • complaints on the infringement of conventions e.g. conventions on human rights, including forced labour and child labour, freedom of association; free collective bargaining, and others considered priority conventions.
The 1995 ILO documentation reports once again illustrated the growing threat to trade union rights throughout the world. It details the outrage of murders, injuries, arrests, detentions and dismissal faced by workers, their families and their leaders as they attempt to exercise their internationally recognised trade union and other human rights.

In addition to these violations of individuals' human rights, an even more startling trend is the upsurge of collective rights violation. These are committed against trade unions through blatant government interference and the growing number of legal barriers which inhibit labour movement freedom.

Trade unions are accused of slowing economic "recovery" by some and as being obstacles to "free market" flexibility by others. International standards promoted by the ILO over the past 75 years are either cast aside or merely ignored in the greed-ridden quest for increasingly higher profits and ever lower wages.

Those who control wealth and power are fully aware of the workers' collective strength. This is why trade unions and other human rights are under attack today.

In the industrialised world, violence is less common but workers are being isolated and collective bargaining undermined, allowing employers to exercise greater authority and influence. The level of violence against workers is highest in Africa and Latin America, whose savage repression is common. The weakening of protective labour legislation, the exclusion of unions from export processing zones and the creation of controlled labour movements are just a few of the many types of violations that are on the rise.

'Insimbi Ayigobi' - A history of Numsa Former Numsa staffer Marcus Toerien reviews Insimbi Ayigobi, a video on the union's history

Insimbi Ayigobi ( 'The metal that can't be bent') is a video presentation of Numsa's history up to its 1993 congress. The first half of the video traces the origins of the main founding unions, and deals with the merger process and the launch itself. The second part briefly explores some of the challenges the union has had to face during the first seven years of its existence.

The main union forces which shaped Numsa were the Metal and Allied Workers Union (Mawu), the National Automobile and Allied Workers Union (Naawu), and the Motor Industry Combined Workers Union (Micwu). The merger also brought together the smaller Motor Assembly and Components Workers Union (Macwusa), and sections of the General and Allied Workers Union (Gawu), the United Mining, Metal and Allied Workers (Ummawosa), and the Transport and General Workers Union.

Underpinning the unity talks was the support provided by the Southern African Council of the International Metalworkers Federation, staffed by Naawu's Brian Fredericks, and later Des East of Micwu. Significantly, Numsa's formation in May 1987 was the first merger of Cosatu unions after the federation's launch. Numsa was only seven years old at the time the video was produced.

It is perhaps for this reason that so much attention is devoted to the early origins of the three unions. But at least Insimbi Ayigobi goes beyond the conventional wisdom that Numsa was a mixed stew of Micwu's administrative capabilities, Mawu's militancy, and Naawu's shopfloor organisation. We learn, for example, that Micwu and Naawu participation in the merger helped to strengthen non-racial union organisation in the metal industry.

There is a remarkably frank discussion about tensions that characterised the establishment of the new union - adopting the Freedom Charter, a name for the new union, and, as Jerry Thibedi reminds us, officials having to give up positions or accept different positions in the new union.

The struggle against liaison committees helped to shape the strong worker control that characterises Numsa, as Baba 'K' Makama (who has the endearing habit of substituting "whatyoucall" for every third or fourth word) relates. It would have been good too to have heard his humourous accounts of the 1992 metalworkers' strike as a roving 'opstoker', going from factory to factory to persuade hesitant members to down tools against Seifsa's wage offer.

In panning Numsa's history, Insimbi Ayigobi reminds us of the many stalwarts who are no longer with the union: Moses Mayekiso, Alec Erwin, Bernie Fanaroff, Joe Foster, Maggie Magubane, Mike Mabuyakhulu and Les Ketteldas. Gone to parliament and government all. We are also reminded of the terrible price that Numsa members paid in trying to maintain their organisation during states of emergency and during the UDF-Inkatha/Cosatu-Uwusa conflicts in Natal and on the Rand.

However, as an historical account of the life of the union, Insimbi Ayigobi has some weaknesses. Too little attention is paid to the campaigns waged by the new, united union. For example, no union balloted its members for strike action against the 1988 LRA amendments as extensively as Numsa did.

Of the 358,000 votes cast, Numsa members accounted for 130,500.

The video also fails to tackle some controversial or traumatic issues, such as the exposing of Maxwell Xulu - Numsa president at the time - as a police spy. The production could also do with more union members - as opposed to officials - telling the story.

Perhaps a later history will deal with the contribution of women to the union. In this account, however, only two women contribute to the entire 49 minutes of the video: June-Rose Nala, Mawu's first general secretary, and Khosi Matlala, an administrator. And what about the great contributions of Numsa members to the emerging worker culture? Worker poets like Nise Malange, Alfred Qabula, Mi Hlatswayo, and the Pinetown local administrator and exponent of factory-basedmaskhande music, Max Masango.

But this does not mean that Insimbi Ayigobi does not tell a story about how thousands of metalworkers united in their national union. It is a useful, factual account in the hitherto short life of Numsa. Videos which tell the story and history of workers and their struggles are generally low-budget affairs. But Numsa's history is in the minds and hearts of it's almost 200,000 members. A future historical account must let them speak.

Copies of the video can be bought from the Film Resource Unit. Contact them at tel: (011) 838-4280, fax: (011) 838-4451 or PO Box 11065, Johannesburg 2000. The video is available on VHS or NTSC formats.

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The mines in crisis

Crisis? What crisis?

The last few weeks have seen extensive media coverage of the 'troubles' in the mining industry. The business press reports calls by mining bosses for greater productivity from the industry's workforce. Television news bulletins report industrial action on the mines only in terms of the harm it causes to an already declining industry. We are seldom told why industrial action occurs. But what lies behind the media attention? There is no doubt that at least in part it is intended to convey to the public and the industry's black workforce organised by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) that:

  • the industry is facing a crisis,
  • unless workers simply agree to bosses' demands for Sunday work, the threatened "downscaling" of the industry will be substantial, and that
  • those workers who remain in employment will come under increasing pressure to work harder.
The NUM agrees that South Africa's mining industry is facing a crisis, but differs with mine owners on what the solutions are. NUM acknowledges that downscaling - the restructuring of the industry with the reduction of its labour force - is inevitable in the gold sector. It has fought to halt the tide of retrenchments that followed the 1987 strike, the famous "21 days that shook the Chamber". But by 1991 the union realised that although it cannot stop the retrenchments it can demand national planning to manage the process. The NUM's Martin Nicol says that by agreeing with mine bosses on the inevitability of downscaling, the union is simply coming to terms with economic reality.

The cause of the crisis

The gold mining industry is in a structural crisis. This means that a number of deep-rooted factors, in combination over a period of time, have resulted in the present situation. Some of the main reasons are:

l The industry's apartheid origins. The mining industry is founded on an abundant supply of cheap black labour from South Africa's impoverished countryside and from neighbouring countries. To this day, and despite the ongoing struggles of NUM members, a distorted pay and skills structure persists. Affirmative action aside, this system pays a minority of white artisans, technicians, and supervisors high wages, while the army of unskilled black labourers are amongst the lowest-paid industrial workers in the economy. The mine bosses require large rates of profits to finance the industry. Acceding to demands from the NUM for pay and skills parity - which employers cannot avoid - means less money for shareholder dividends and for reinvestment.

  • Mineral deposits are a wasting resource - the more that is extracted from the earth, the less there is that remains to be mined in the future.
Our mining industry is now more than 100 years old! l Much of the gold that remains underground is three or four kilometres deep, where mining is dangerous and very expensive.
  • The ore that is still left to be mined is of a poor quality. In the 1960's, the mines got over 10 grams of gold from each ton of ore mined. In the 1990's the average grade has been only 5 grams per ton. More ore has to be mined in order to produce an ounce of gold.
  • The instability of metals prices, particularly gold. The see-saw nature of metals prices means that mine owners are reluctant to mine new deposits or bring new mines into production if they are not confident of a profitable return. No one expects any big rise in the gold price, but inflation is pushing up costs all the time.
  • New technology and work practices mean that fewer workers produce more output.
  • The change in the role of gold in the world economy from underpinning national currencies, to being used mainly in the manufacture of jewellry.
The consequences of rationalisation

There is a complex relationship between the prosperity of the mining industry and the livelihoods of millions of people in Southern Africa. The shrinking of the mining industry as more and more mines close or downscale will deepen poverty in our rural areas and in neighbouring states.

Downscaling will hit those families who rely on migrants' remittances. The towns, villages and informal settlements close to mines will suffer, as will suppliers and downstream industries (industries which are dependent on the mines). NUM quotes research conducted in the Goldfields area to illustrate this point. In late 1992, Harmony gold mine paid R25 million in wages, R1 million in rates to the town of Virginia, R6 million to Eskom, and R17 million for stores and materials each month. It also owned 32% of Virginia's houses.

For those who remain part of the reduced workforce on mines, greater productivity will be required. There is mounting pressure on the NUM to agree to work continuous shifts, and work on Sundays and public holidays.

The Chamber of Mines also decries the fact that mineworkers now enjoy the same number of paid public holidays as all other workers! They say workers should be more productive. But workers resist having to work longer and harder if they are not rewarded fairly.

Active state intervention - NUM's response to the crisis Because the mining industry is in a structural crisis, isolating just one of the causes and tackling it will not bring about a solution. Thus the NUM proposes a comprehensive policy. The union's proposals are contained in a document entitled "Mining and Minerals Policy for a non-Discriminatory, Efficient, and Prosperous Mining Industry in South Africa".

The document has been submitted to a minerals and energy affairs (MEA) ministerial task team. Together with recommendations from employers, the ANC and MEA ministry, it will form the basis for a ministerial white paper.

A central element in the NUM's strategy for managing the crisis is its proposal for the enactment of a Social Plan Act. The Social Plan Act seeks to ensure a negotiated restructuring of each mine as well as social adjustment measures (retraining, compensation, counselling) to lessen its impact on the thousands of mineworkers who stand to lose their jobs in mining. It focuses on providing a legal framework for negotiating retrenchments. The notice period for retrenchments must be at least one year, severance packages must be at least one month's pay per year of service. Most important of all, mines must save up money now to finance proper training and retraining programmes to equip miners to find other jobs.

The NUM sees the achievement of a Social Plan Act as an urgent goal for the new government. It should apply to all workplaces, not only mines. The labour delegation to Nedlac has formally tabled proposals for negotiation with business and the government.

The Social Plan protects individual workers against the bad effects of restructuring. But this can only work if there is national planning for downscaling. The NUM has proposed an "Industry Downscaling Act" to allow for regional investment promotion to build new industries to replace old ones. It will also create a tripartite Permanent Mining Commission to manage and co- ordinate the restructuring at a macro level. This body will consider state aid for marginal mines, and the direct nationalisation of mines which do not co-operate with the restructuring process. It also envisages specific acts of parliament to nationalise particular mines if this is in the interest of orderly management of downscaling.

Mine owners' views are contained in the Chamber of Mines' document "Mining and Minerals Policy in the New South Africa". The employers' proposals for a future mining and minerals policy fail entirely to address downscaling, or any of the social issues affecting the industry.

Throughout their policy proposals, the mining barons argue a free-market approach. They want government involvement in the industry to be restricted to a minimum. No role is envisaged for the state in labour relations and the policy document reveals owners' fears of nationalisation by cautioning against state involvement in mining ventures.

This is rich coming from an industry that has relied on state intervention for every aspect of its oppressive existence. In 1870, the Cape government annexed the Kimberley diamond fields. In 1899, the mine bosses started the Anglo Boer War because the Transvaal government was not enforcing the pass laws drafted by the Chamber of Mines. Labour laws excluded black mineworkers from effective trade unionism for over 100 years.

The NUM is now calling for strong state intervention to reform the mining industry and make it a worthy part of a new and democratic South Africa.

The NUM comments: "The mine bosses used state power for a century to benefit a narrow group of racist exploiters - now the new government must implement the RDP and make the mineral wealth of our country serve all the people."

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FEATURE: Nedlac - SA's unique experiment

On 18 August 1995, the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) was six months old. The highlight of this short history of the world's youngest and most unique experiment in multilateral decision-making was, without doubt, the agreement reached on the labour relations bill in July this year. The intense, high-profile negotiations around the bill could have created the impression that this was the only area in which Nedlac was active. On the contrary, progress was made with a number of other issues on Nedlac's work programme.

The Labour Market Chamber

Negotiating the labour relations bill completely dominated this chamber's activities until the end of July this year. Because of the importance of reaching agreement on the bill, the chamber has not had the time to develop a strategic focus for its work programme. The chamber has also had to conclude some aspects of the National Manpower Commission's work, such as the ratification of the International Labour Organisation conventions and work on the National Training Board.

In developing its strategic focus, the chamber must make sure that its work programme fits into Nedlac's overall goals (see box on page 23). For example, well-formulated labour-market policies can help to realise these goals. Policies developed in Nedlac's other three chambers can also have consequences for the Labour Market Chamber.

The chamber recently held a workshop to evaluate this year's collective-bargaining agreements. It will now put together an agreed set of guidelines which can be referred to during 1997's round of negotiations.

The Trade and Industry Chamber

This chamber has continued its work on international trade relations and trade policy, under which the labour constituency's proposal on a social clause is being discussed.

It also looks at foreign and domestic investment policies, concentrating on the policy strategy directions and policy environment for promoting foreign direct investment in South Africa. In this regard, it has developed a proposal for the establishment of a national investment-promotion agency, which Nedlac's social partners have agreed on. Government now has to implement this proposal.

On domestic investment policy, the chamber has authorised its Japanese Grant Fund subcommittee to start an investigation into the Regional Industrial Development Programme. This investigation will, among others, consider the feasibility of export-processing zones.

Among several other issues on its agenda is the development of small, micro and medium-size enterprises (SMMEs). The chamber is also considering how to assist SMMEs with marketing its export potential.

One of the most important issues for the chamber is supply-side measures, including human resource development, the use of technology, and the enhancement of productivity.

The former National Economic Forum's Liquid Fuels Industry Task Force (LFITF) now falls under this chamber. The main issue on the LFITF's agenda is an investigation into state protection of Sasol's synthetic-fuels industry.

The Public Finance and Monetary Policy Chamber

Discussion on exchange control and exchange-rate policy continues in this chamber, but its main focus at the moment is the 1996-97 Budget. This discussion represents a unique development in South Africa because, for the first time, the social partners of Nedlac will meaningfully input into the development and content of the Budget. This also means that the way ordinary people are touched by the Budget will be taken into account.

The process followed for the Budget discussion is that government develops a framework for the Budget process, which will serve as a guideline for the chamber. The Budget discussion will involve looking at issues such as the inflation rate, the economic growth rate, the Budget deficit, and the revenue to gross domestic product ratio.

It is in this chamber that government's proposals for the reorganisation of state assets (sometimes referred to as privatisation) will be discussed.

The Development Chamber

This chamber started its activities much later than the other three. The delay was due to the process of selecting organisations which represent broad community interests. The organisations represented in the chamber are:

  • The National Youth Development Forum,
  • The South Africa National Civics' Organisation,
  • The National Women's Coalition,
  • The Disabled People of South Africa,
  • The National Rural Development Forum, The Chamber's work programme is divided into four areas:
  • Social development issues, such as health and education.
  • Development at local-government level. An example of a focus here will be how the social partners can contribute to the Masakhane Campaign, and to the provision of housing and electrification, ( Capacity-building and organisational development.
  • Infrastructure development.
What is Nedlac?

Many concepts have been used to describe what the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) is. Some call it "bargained corporatism" or an experiment in "social democracy" or "social partnership"; others would call it a "socio-economic council" or a "multi-party agreement-making body". All of these mean only one thing:

Nedlac is a statutory body in which labour, business, government and the community come together to resolve their differences and reach consensus on all labour legislation, and all significant social and economic legislation. In the process, they become an integral part, with Parliament and its portfolio committees, of the decision-making and policy-formulation processes in South Africa.

There are several examples of institutions like Nedlac all over the world.

Nedlac, however, is unique because it includes not only organised business, organised labour and government, but sectors from the community as well.

Nedlac has four constituencies:

  • Labour, which is represented by delegates from Cosatu, Nactu and Fedsal.
  • Business, whose delegates to Nedlac come from the umbrella employer association Business South Africa (BSA).
  • Government, represented by civil servants and politicians from several departments.
  • Community, which consists of delegates from the women, civics, rural, disabled and youth sectors of our society.
Delegates from these constituencies are represented in Nedlac's four chambers. They are:

  • The Labour Market Chamber.
  • The Trade and industry Chamber.
  • The Public Finance and Monetary Policy Chamber.
  • The Development Chamber.
Nedlac has three overall goals:
  • To help facilitate an environment in which jobs are created.
  • To contribute to stamping out poverty.
  • To contribute to economic growth and increased investment in our country.
With these goals in mind, the kind of agreement reached in Nedlac becomes very important, because it is always possible to reach an agreement that will not necessarily make any contribution to these goals.

For more background information on Nedlac, see the supplement in the February edition of The Shopsteward.

The Trade and Industry Chamber by Lionel October, Sactwu

The aim of the trade and industry chamber is to develop trade and industrial policies which promote economic growth, creation of employment and an increased living standard for all South Africans in line with the national objectives of the RDP.

Labour's views

The Nedlac trade and industry chamber is the forum in which labour participates in the negotiation of industrial and trade policies. At a number of workshops, labour has developed the following approach to trade and industry policies. These areas are at present included on the Nedlac work program.

Industrial restructuring South Africa's manufacturing sector has developed behind high tariff barriers. This has (with a few notable exceptions) led to high costs and inefficiency. In order for our manufacturing industry to create jobs and continuously improve living standards of workers, a new set of trade and industrial policies is needed.

  • Tripartite sectoral committees need to be created for each industry where industrial strategies can be formulated.
  • A set of supply side measures need to be developed to assist industries to become competitive, increase exports, raise efficiency and expand employment.
  • A Social Plan Act which will spell out the procedure employers have to follow when restructuring takes place.This is to protect and assist workers who may be adversely affected by restructuring.
Trade policies

SA's trade environment faces a number of problems. Tariffs are high and extremely complicated. Our customs control is inefficient and we are unable to control illegal imports. Our trade policies also lack a set of principles which will assist in promoting human rights and improving workers' living standards. All these problems need to be addressed within the chamber. The most urgent issue is the social clause.

Why a Social Clause

It is a form of unfair competition for countries to compete on the basis of exploitation. Countries which deny basic trade union rights or who use forced labour can produce goods at lower costs. This not only threatens jobs in other countries which respect workers rights but also undermines labour standards. Unless worker rights are promoted everywhere, they will be undermined everywhere.

South Africa has a moral obligation to promote human and worker rights. Our struggle against apartheid and the denial of basic human rights was internationally supported. It is our duty to assist workers who are denied basic rights and are forced to work under highly exploitative conditions.

Trade must not only benefit government and employers. By promoting trade union rights we are assisting workers to share in the benefits of increased trade.

What should be included in the Social Clause Labour has opted for a social clause which does not prescribe what labour standards and regulations need to be applied. The social clause provides for internationally accepted worker and human rights. These are:

  • The right to form and join a trade union and the right to collective bargaining, including the right to strike.
  • No child or forced labour.
  • No discrimination on the basis of race, religion or gender.
These basic rights need to be included in all trade agreements, especially that of the WTO, the SACU agreement and all preferential trade agreements.

At the time of going to press, Nedlac was waiting for government's response on the social clause. After that, negotiations on the issue will start.

Learning from Nedlac

The Shopsteward discussed some of the lessons and issues around Nedlac with Numsa secretary general and Cosatu negotiator Enoch Godongwana

The Shopsteward: What was the origin of Nedlac?

Enoch Godongwana: Nedlac is a successor of the National Economic Forum (NEF). The NEF was a product of our own struggles as workers, particularly against the unilateral implementation of VAT. We extended the scope of our demand to say no unilateral restructuring of our economy. In succumbing to that demand, the apartheid regime agreed to the formation of the NEF. And Nedlac is to some extent an incorporation of both the NEF and the National Manpower Commission. So, in essence, Nedlac is the fruit of our own struggles.

Has Nedlac functioned in the way Cosatu envisaged it?

We have achieved the overall approach of making sure there is proper consultation and that civil society plays a critical role in policy formulation.

But there are problems in relation to dealing with issues and content. We are discussing detail without discussing the broader picture within which we should locate that detail. So we have ad hoc discussion on issues which do not necessarily link to any particular framework. My personal view is that this has been the fundamental flaw of Nedlac. There has been no integration between what the chambers are doing. Each chamber has its own programme which is totally divorced from the other chambers. So the different chambers are basically pushing in different directions, due to the absence of a strategic framework.

Has Cosatu been able to provide that strategic framework?

Various partners in Nedlac have agreed that there is a weakness, so there will be a Nedlac strategic workshop on 21 and 22 September. Prior to that there will be a labour strategic focus where we begin to say, how do we restructure Nedlac and give it more direction.

Let me illustrate the weakness. The development chamber might be discussing providing one million houses per year. Public finance could be agreeing on fiscal discipline and therefore reducing government spending. They are going in opposite directions, because if there is a reduction in government spending, there will not be enough money to build one million houses a year. If trade and industry is saying there must be massive tariff reductions with no strategy to develop those sectors that are likely to supply the building materials for the houses, then you are going to increase your imports massively. So each decision affects a whole range of other things and each chamber must discuss how it fits into the overall strategy.

How can the problem be solved?

What I am proposing is going to take a long time but in my view it is worth the effort. The starting point is to begin to look at the bigger picture.

There are huge numbers of unemployed in our economy. Our key focus must be to generate levels of growth enough to absorb the unemployed and new entrants onto the labour market. We can debate key elements of achieving this growth. This to me is a critical debate. Without this framework, it is not clear how any of the other issues we are dealing with in the various chambers link together.

What are some of the key elements of achieving this economic growth?

Some people move from the premise that the first thing to do is attract foreign investment. I don't underestimate the role of foreign investment in our economy but foreign investors are not likely to come into our economy when the level of crime and social instability is so high. And the level of crime and social instability is not going to decline while the unemployment levels are so high. So it's a Catch 22.

This means that absorbing unemployment will have to come from our own resources. So we will have to kick-start our own economy.

The only option open to us is public sector investment, including investment in social infrastructure, in targeted areas. This is likely to generate domestic demand. And by putting more people to work, you reduce the levels of violence and foreign investment is going to flow in.

How will agreement in Nedlac on a strategic framework impact on government policy?

Nedlac's position is in an advisory capacity to government. Government will take into account the deliberations at Nedlac. If these are acceptable to them, they will pursue or implement policy measures which take those ideas forward.

What were the lessons of the LRA negotiations, in particular, how mass action influenced the negotiations?

Nedlac is basically a negotiating forum, with all these parties coming with their different viewpoints. If there is no consensus, obviously parties use the power they have to influence the process. Mass action was part and parcel of influencing the process and it had the desired effect.

At the time we embarked on the mass action, the only thing we agreed on was to exclude the Defence Force from the scope of the LRA. But, immediately after the mass action, there were successive agreements on a number of clauses.

There was a view that the mass action was aimed at both government and business. That in my view is flawed. Any key strategy must be based on the understanding that we want to martial all social forces behind our own programme and to narrow the social base of the enemy as much as possible.

We achieved that precisely because we didn't isolate the government as the enemy - business became isolated. When the Mandela's and the Tokyo's of this world turned up at our marches, it clearly sent a signal to business that we are not alone in our fight. All the democratic forces were on our side and therefore we had to be taken seriously. If government and the ANC showed opposition to our position publicly, that would have given business more reason to delay the negotiations process.

Another lesson learnt was around a myth from people who argued: we elected this government into power, why can't they just legislate?

This reflects a misunderstanding of the nature of the alliance. If organisations are in an alliance it doesn't mean they agree on every detail. There is a minimum programme which unites them but there are other areas of disagreement. That was thrown into sharp focus by the LRA negotiations. For example, on the issue of banning scabs, we didn't have a common vision. We must accept that there will be such differences in any alliance. It is a healthy process.

How has the process of mandates and report backs been working?

After the labour bill was presented in February, virtually every union went on a programme of massive education of our members about what the bill says and virtually every union got a mandate on a continuous basis.

But, if the Wits regional shopstewards council was anything to go by, that process was also flawed because some people were complaining they did not get any feedback. This means some affiliates were not reporting regularly and getting feedback from their membership.

A point of view then emerged around the LRA negotiations to say, why the hurry?

I believe this is based on a misunderstanding of the balance of forces now and possibly in the future. In the negotiations, I could see an aggressive posture from business, but I could also see government beginning to step back from the bill. One such area was the sympathy strike provision. So I don't believe we would have been better off with a postponement.

The pace becomes critical. Sometimes the issues become so technical and the pace so fast that taking on board the mandating process and people behind you becomes difficult.

Another dilemma we face is our capacity in the labour movement in relation to the content discussed in Nedlac. Most of the issues are complex. You need the machinery to ensure people understand and relate to the issues.

People could relate to the LRA more directly. But some of the other issues do not seem to ordinary people to have an immediate impact on them.

We must be careful about the pace, so that we can take people on board with us. But with some of the issues, such as the national budget, it becomes difficult. Failure to make an input into that budget will have an impact on our broad strategy. We must find a balance to get a clear understanding from people on what they want in the budget without stalling the process of having a budget by March.

Are some of the issues covered by existing Cosatu policy?

Yes, this is so. The dilemma is that, once people have an impression that the process is secret, they forget even the existing policy and that you are still operating within a mandate.

Cosatu has a broad platform of policy positions adopted at national congresses and policy conferences. There are a whole range of packages which guide our approach. But the problem is the extent to which we are carrying people along. This brings us back to capacity to explain things to people on the ground and how our membership relates to these issues. So a massive education programme on these issues is critical.

To what extent is this education being carried out?

I'm critical of Cosatu having workshops on arbitration or negotiating skills or organisers courses. These things are being dealt with at affiliate level. I feel Cosatu should be assisting only those unions which do not have the capacity to do this themselves.

It would be important for Cosatu to say: what are the macro issues we are facing.

What education programme are we developing around these to supplement affiliate programmes, which tend to have a narrower focus?

Our media is also critical in coming in as part of a strategising session to get an understanding of the issues in the various chambers and simplifying this for people to understand and disseminating information on the ground.

Our shopstewards and ordinary members must understand what are the issues, how they can relate to the process, what their role is. The problem is not so much that the shopsteward locals have collapsed, but they are going about their own business as if nothing has happened. The Nedlac issues do not feature because they do not know if they have any role to play.

What about the problem that Nedlac is tying up key union leaders and removing them from union and other Cosatu business?

My personal view is that it was a mistake to tie up the senior leadership of affiliates in virtually every subcommittee of Nedlac. It would be more useful if they were limited to the Nedlac executive council, which ratifies decisions and policies which emerge from the chambers. Then you could have spread a layer of leadership from all the affiliates in the various chambers. That would have achieved two things - it would avoid tying up the senior leadership and it would develop capacity of another layer of leadership and therefore help build a broad-based leadership within the labour movement.

There has been some debate about what issues should be discussed at Nedlac.

What is your view on this?

If we have made a decision that we're going to have a sort of corporatist approach - that's what it boils down to - in relation to decision-making, we have to live with that. We can't say let's bypass Nedlac. That would be a dangerous route. It would create a precedent which could backfire at some stage when government consults business alone on an issue.

The key issue is the strategic approach of the alliance in relation to Nedlac and the content of issues dealt with there. We should go into Nedlac with one approach as the alliance, having a common objective about the transformation of South African society. The solution is therefore to strengthen the alliance co-ordination and input into Nedlac, rather than bypass Nedlac.

We have also learnt that the ministry viewpoint and not necessarily an ANC viewpoint. So we need to go beyond that level to make sure that there is an alliance viewpoint. This will help strengthen our position at Nedlac.

Sections of the media have criticised Nedlac as being undemocratic and that it represents "policy formulation by stealth". Your response?

Nedlac is not making binding decisions. Their role is purely an advisory role to an elected government and that government represents the majority viewpoint of our population. The decisions really lie with that government which can in no way be characterised as undemocratic.

We are talking about organised formations in our country participating in Nedlac. No single constituency in our country has a membership the size of Cosatu. I would challenge any organisation - including political parties - to show that they have paid-up membership of 1,5 million people.

Nedlac has been open, not only to labour, business and government, but a broad range of forces, including women, youth and rural people. There has been a process of bringing in as many as possible social forces in our economy to make sure it's broadly representative.

What is your view on making Nedlac more transparent, for example, opening it to the press?

I support this in principle. My worry is that it could encourage political jockeying as parties try to perform for the press. The press can play a negative or a positive role. For example, it could emphasise and sensationalise the differences between parties. On the other hand, the press could play an important role in informing people, and the more people know about what is happening the better. So we should find a balance between these two.

There has been some concern that parliament is expected to simply rubberstamp agreements, for example on the LRA, reached at Nedlac.

That is absolutely incorrect. I have emphasised the advisory role of Nedlac. Parliament will take the labour legislation and make its decision as it deems fit. But obviously they will have to take into account the fact that major constituencies that are going to use that law - business and labour - have agreed on certain fundamentals. We have not taken over parliament's role. Nedlac's founding documents are clear on this.

There is also a view that Nedlac is simply a talk shop, and that while parties there are waiting to discuss certain issues, such as the reorganisation of state assets, government is actually taking steps on these.

The government has to make preparations for its input in relation to state assets. It has to present a vision. Once that document is developed, and the government has formulated its views, they will table it at Nedlac. So we have not been bypassed at all. The government is fully within their rights to formulate a position, as other parties do. However, I would have a problem if, once they develop that position, they start implementing it without a debate.

What are the major issues still facing Nedlac?

While the major test for Nedlac was the LRA, more fundamental issues are still to come. We have not yet dealt with substance in Nedlac, we have just dealt with processes. The major issue of substance is the economic framework I have mentioned. Linked to that is the reorganisation of state assets, the question of industrial policy, of developing infrastructure.

Government is developing its own economic approach which they are going to put to Nedlac. We are going to be debating substance there. It is going to be a tough one as it will reflect ideological connotations, one way or the other, of business.

Will it be more difficult for Cosatu to mobilise support around some of the more abstract issues?

In Nedlac it seems we are involved in abstract debate. At industry and at plant level I am dealing with different things. I am dealing with Barlows that is closing. And workers understand why - because of the tariff reductions and other things. They can immediately relate to the issue of tariff reductions. In the past it has been abstract to workers but it is not abstract now. Every worker in the motor assembly plants understands fairly well that tariff reductions are coming up. They can see even the cars around them, which are not made in South Africa.

Workers from Hendler and Hart can see how pots from China and Zimbabwe are coming in. So in Nedlac we tend to be discussing something different, but on the ground, it is affecting workers.

Fiscal discipline, operating with a lean and mean state, restructuring the civil service - these have a direct impact. Everything has concrete effects on membership. The key question is getting it to people to understand.

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Sadtu for teacher empowerment

Over 800 delegates, representing 100,000 teachers countrywide, attended Sadtu's third congress. The congress confirmed Sadtu's position as the country's largest teacher union and demonstrated a unified focus around the theme: "Unionise and Reconstruct for Teacher Empowerment".

While the congress elected new leadership, the adoption of resolutions to inform the union's future programmes was not completed. Following a Special National Council on 25 and 26 August, with extended participation by regions, the congress report is now finalised.

The Third Congress

The congress had many positive aspects, including a high level of discipline and professionalism, a high quality of debate and full participation by delegates. The presence of international allies, comrades from government and the labour movement, as well as student and NGO representatives, confirmed our place as the legitimate voice of teachers in the country. The guest speaker, Prof Pai Obanye, was followed by two unscheduled speakers. One was the Honourable Minister of Education, Sibusiso Bengu, who flew to Johannesburg especially to be with us - a measure of the importance which he attaches to this constituency of teachers. Tom Bedigo, General Secretary of the All Africa Teachers Organisation (AATO), and the African representative of Education International (EI), drew on all his experience to guide us through this tough period. Resolutions Educational issues The union called for greater transparency in educational policy development processes and for the urgent establishment of consultative structures for education. The Education Policy Bill promises a National Education and Training Council, and we urged its formation.

Sadtu called for RDP funds to be directed to schools in informal settlements and in rural areas. The union concretised its proposals on school governance, defining a PTSA as an elected structure of equal parts, with the principal an ex-officio member. Such structures should have no formal power in the employment of teachers, but could advise the Department on this. On the Teacher Appraisal project, we resolved:

  • to proceed with the pilot programme for the rest of 1995,
  • to propose a national conference before the end of 1995,
  • to meet with Naptosa on the negotiated document, before introducing it at the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) for adoption as a collective agreement, for implementation in 1996.
The demise of the NETF and its curriculum sub-structure has left a partial vacuum in curriculum development. Short-term processes will have to continue, while fundamental restructuring is undertaken. In the short term, Sadtu is establishing more than 40 National Curriculum Commissions, and replicating these at all levels of the union. A national policy conference next month will prepare for participation in drawing up an integrated curriculum for education and training. Sadtu reaffirmed its call for the rapid mainstreaming of learners within Special Educational Needs, to avoid their further marginalisation. The union stressed the need for a more radical restructuring of the education bureaucracy, on affirmative action principles and the setting up of effective provincial education departments.

Human Rights

Sadtu noted with great concern the apparently escalating levels of family violence and the sexual abuse of children. Sadtu accepted responsibility for ensuring that its members were aware of these issues andcould deal with them in their classrooms. Teachers would also help educate communities on this.


Sadtu noted gains in gender equality in service conditions, including agreements around pension funds for women educators, housing subsidies for married women and maternity leave. These represent a small breakthrough, but their effect will be small to begin with. Further negotiations will be held on the basis of the gender desk policy document, which National Council called for. Sadtu called for the state's Gender Equity Unit to be set up and to start work immediately.

Labour front

Sadtu adopted a Negotiations Strategy for the next three years. This includes an approach to salaries and service conditions. It also makes provision for "time off" for union officials. The union also looked at the "harmonisation" of the ELRC with the LRA provisions, and the existence of two chambers - the PSLRC and the ELRC - when our money comes from one allocation.

Restructuring and Demarcation

The restructuring of the country into nine provinces has forced the union to do likewise The National Council approved constitutional changes:

  • an extra leadership layer has been introduced at provincial level, with "regions" between these and the branches for effective communication, consultation and organisation.
  • National Congress will be held every three years, not two as before.
Bonds with Cosatu and Public Sector Unions

Sadtu committed itself to strengthening its interaction with Cosatu, especially at local and provincial levels. We also agreed to remain as observers in the public sector unions unity process, pending further debate amongst our membership, as well as developments on the public sector bargaining process.

International relations

Sadtu resolved to build international relations, especially with the Southern African Teacher Organisation, AATO, and through our membership of Education International.

* This is a shorter version of a much longer article by Duncan Hendle

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Sell-out or breakthrough?

The three-year agreement between Numsa and auto assembly employers in July has sparked heated debate. Some see it as a significant breakthrough.

Others, like CWIU president Abraham Agulhas, see it as a "sell-out" which undermines Cosatu's living wage campaign. The Shopsteward organised a debate on the issue between Numsa general secretary Enoch Godongwana and Agulhas, mediated by then Cosatu communications head Neil Coleman. This is a summary of their views.

The living wage campaign

Abraham Agulhas said the political component of the living wage campaign is to expose the shortcomings of the capitalist system to workers and to show them that their demand for a living wage cannot be met under capitalism. He believes that, although the wage provisions of the auto agreement guarantee workers real wage increases (inflation plus 2%), "it is also an acceptance of the capitalist system". Even if profits in the three-year period are very high, the company is still obliged to pay increases of only inflation plus 2%.

On the issue of closing the apartheid wage gap, Neil Coleman asked if the wage component of the agreement challenges the worker-manager wage gap, or if it merely addresses the disparity between unskilled worker and artisan.

Enoch Godongwana said that in order to close the apartheid wage gap, Numsa and auto employers had to make projections over a three-year period: what income could workers expect over this period?

He said that Numsa's negotiations are now beginning to take into account the distortions that Taylorist (hierarchical workplace organisation) and Fordist (mass) production methods have caused in the workplace. Numsa is now beginning to tackle flattening the hierarchies, reducing grades, reducing management levels, and integrating mental and manual labour at the point of production.

Godongwana said that the real issue behind Agulhas' concern is whether Numsa as a trade union (as opposed to a political party) was still committed to the seizure of power. This, he said, is an entirely different debate.

If by a living wage Agulhas means improving the quality of life of its members and closing the apartheid wage gap, then Numsa has made progress toward a living wage, rather than undermining it, Godongwana said.

Skills training and productivity

Agulhas asserts that skills training is a right and should not be compromised over or bargained for. Apartheid deprived workers of skills.

Skills training will lead to greater productivity. But there is no guarantee that the market will be able to absorb the increased production of motor cars. If the market is unable to absorb the increase in production, then the auto assemblers will demand short-time, pay cuts, and retrenchments, because the agreements do not provide for job security.

Numsa has not considered this possibility.

In the agreement, Agulhas adds, the parties commit themselves to growth, yet there is no undertaking from the bosses to increase investment in the industry. Numsa commits its members to team work, yet it doesn't have the capacity to do so. The agreement says that workers will be compensated for skills acquired provided they progress upwards. But there are no guarantees that there will be vacancies at a higher level for workers to move into.

Godongwana replied that Numsa has not undertaken not to strike over productivity precisely because productivity details are a plant issue and still have to be negotiated. Productivity is not an exchange for skills, productivity is an outcome of skills.

He pointed out that, in some auto plants, there have been productivity arrangements since even before unionisation. As early as 1991, MBSA workers went on strike to demand that productivity bonuses be paid every three months, rather than every six months. What Numsa has done now is to set an industry framework - principles applicable to the entire industry - to guide plant-level negotiations on productivity deals. In this way, employers cannot dictate productivity arrangements. They have to negotiate within the parameters set for the entire industry. If Agulhas' fear is that productivity deals undermine minimum wages negotiated at centralised level, then he need not worry, because minimum wages are not based on productivity outputs, Godongwana said.

"The Motor Industry Task Group is looking at the restructuring of the industry. We assemble 39 different models in South Africa. This is a problem for the components sector. They can't manufacture large volumes because of tooling and retooling problems. Those issues are dealt with in a different forum, not in this agreement," Godongwana said.

"A challenge to the bosses to increase levels of investment is a logical outcome of discussing productivity improvements at plant level. While there is no express commitment by employers to capital investment (investment in machinery, technology, plant and buildings) there is a commitment to investing in human resources. The agreement provides for workers to move to higher pay levels simply by acquiring new skills, whether the employer uses those skills or not."


Agulhas argued that the auto agreement amounts to a codetermination deal which will blur class conflict and create the illusion that workers can co-exist peacefully with capitalism. Not all unions in Cosatu have agreed to codetermination, he says. There is in fact a very lively debate within Cosatu about it. With this agreement, Numsa has jumped the gun. Numsa's clout in Cosatu means that it is setting codeterminist policy that other affiliates will find hard to resist or counter. Numsa needs to lead its members in struggle, not allow an agreement like this to demobilise them.

Responding, Godongwana cautions against equating the role of a union with that of a political party. Numsa has no principled position for or against codetermination. But, Godongwana added, if codetermination meant challenging management prerogative, then he personally is in favour of codetermination. Agulhas is correct to consider the political implications of the agreements, but he fails to take into account the economic imperatives of the country. When Numsa took on the auto bosses in last year's strike, Toyota lost market share to Hyundai. Now Toyota is placing many Numsa members on short-time and there is the real possibility of job losses. The auto assembly industry is a sensitive industry in the light of tariff reductions.

The right to strike

Agulhas says that, through the agreement, Numsa has accepted that it will have to police its members and ensure labour peace. He doubts whether workers will accept everything contained in the agreements, such as productivity, especially since implementation is at enterprise level. In these agreements, Numsa undertakes not to strike, thereby shifting the onus to police the agreement onto the union. Numsa signed these agreements in the face of struggles around the LRA and the right to strike. Mobilisation around the LRA had been very high. Numsa is now sending a message to other workers that the right to strike is not important.

Godongwana disagreed strongly with this. As far back as 1987, the tyre and rubber and auto assembly industries were the first to agree to the right to strike without fear of dismissal, he said. Last year's auto strike bears this out. No worker was dismissed. And, only a week after the three-year agreement was concluded, auto workers went out on strike at Toyota, Nissan and Volkswagen on different matters. Numsa was not called in to put a stop to the industrial action. In any agreement there is an understanding, if not an explicit provision, that workers will not strike on those issues on which there has been agreement. What Numsa has done is to reassure employers that on all those issues on which agreement has been reached, no further claims will be made for the duration of the agreement. And Numsa undertakes to ensure that no strike action will ensue on those issues.

In summarising Numsa's position, Godongwana says the agreement must be judged on whether it:

  • overcomes the historical shopfloor inequalities in wages, skills formation and career advancement,
  • enhances the productive capacity of members, through skills training, so that they can create more wealth, and
  • advances the cause of working people by setting an example of what can be achieved. The danger of complacency does exist, says Godongwana. But there are many issues at plant level that will test members' energies and creativity, such as the detail of productivity arrangements.
Agulhas concluded his views by saying that the agreement is a step backwards for the working class from its socialist objectives. In this transitional period, trade unions need to be politically aware, he said.

Trade unions are not political parties, but they are a vehicle for achieving a coherent political strategy. This is where Numsa has failed.

But both Godongwana and Agulhas agree that the real debate is about the future direction of trade unionism when it is confronted with the problems of how to ensure economic growth and create more wealth and jobs, on the one hand, and remaining true to its historical mission of uniting workers in action against exploitation, on the other.

Eastern Cape merger

Representatives of 170,000 members of Cosatu affiliates gathered in King Williamstown for the merger of the federation's Border/Kei and Eastern Cape regions on 26 and 27 August. The new region will be known as the Eastern Cape.

The merger congress not only had to elect new office bearers and decide on where to locate the regional office, but also debated:

  • how best to strengthen Cosatu in the new region;
  • capacity building and development of affiliates;
  • local government elections; and
  • strengthening the alliance.
The congress resolved to establish a core group of representatives of all affiliates in the region. The group's first task will be to convene a strategy workshop to discuss:
  • servicing members,
  • launching and reviving locals and gender structures,
  • Cosatu's participation in various forums,
  • Cosatu's role in governance and transformation,
  • Developing programmes and campaigns, and
  • Cosatu's relationship with other worker organisations and social movements in the region.
The congress identified a need to create an awareness of broad economic issues amongst affiliates and labour in general. It was also felt that a series of training workshops for shopstewards needs to be convened, and that Cosatu should participate in establishing a workers' college in the region.

To prepare for the local government elections campaign, the region resolved to convene a strategising workshop at the end of September.

It was also decided to work to revive branch structures in all the component sections of the alliance.

The congress elected the following office-bearers:

  • Humphrey Maxhegwana, regional secretary,
  • A Mtsi, chairperson,
  • M Manentsa, vice-chairperson, and
  • L Dunjwa as treasurer.
After a long debate which eventually went to a vote, the congress decided that the regional office be located in East London.

By Humphrey Maxhegwana

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Women on the march

Cosatu women's marches were held in different Cosatu regions on 26 August to highlight demands for an end to violence against women, an end to child abuse and women's right to control their own reproductive rights. The marchers presented memorandums to police stations and MEC's for health. The march was part of a focus on women during the month of August as part of Cosatu's activities to mark its tenth anniversary this year. Cosatu regions also participated in National Women's Day activities on August 9.

Cosatu in Beijing

As we go to press, a number of women from Cosatu and its affiliates are in Beijing, China, to attend the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women and NGO Forum. Cosatu-sponsored delegates are Rose Makwane (Cosatu Gender Coordinator), Maud Khumalo (CWIU) and Leah Marumo (TGWU). Makwane will also be part of the SA government delegation as a labour representative. TGWU's Sibongile Masanwane is also part of the government delegation.

Other delegates from Cosatu affiliates, who fundraised for themselves, include Sadwu's Violet Senna and Elsie Komako, and Numsa's Raine Chiya.

(See the next issue of The Shopsteward for a full report).

Solidarity with Cuba

As part of South Africa's contribution to World Solidarity Day with Cuba, a Southern African Conference will be held in Johannesburg from 7-9 October 1995. The conference will bring together representatives from all countries in Southern Africa. Delegations will include representatives from governments, trade unions, political parties and solidarity groups.

Apart from marking World Solidarity Day with Cuba, the conference will also help forge solidarity links between the countries, open the way for more concerted Southern African diplomacy against the US blockade against Cuba and develop a common programme of solidarity action against the blockade.

A national preparatory committee representing Cuba solidarity groups across the country is organising the conference. A committee of patrons has also been formed. It includes John Gomomo, Cheryl Carolus, Charles Nqakula, ministers Dullah Omar and Trevor Manuel and other prominent leaders.

A resolution to mark October 10 as World Solidarity Day with Cuba was adopted at the First World Meeting in Solidarity with Cuba, held in Havana, Cuba, in November last year. About 3000 people representing 109 countries attended the meeting. The South African delegation was led by SA Communist Party general secretary Charles Nqakula, Cosatu president John Gomomo and ANC MP Raymond Suttner. The delegation also included representatives of most Cosatu affiliates, MPs and local Cuba solidarity groups. The meeting shared experiences of solidarity action and looked at ways to undermine the US blockade of Cuba.

Organisers fired up

Cosatu can expect an injection of new life into the federation following the Cosatu Semester School in August. About 60 organisers from all the federation's affiliates attended the three-week intensive foundation course in Kempton Park.

According to Cosatu education secretary Shele Papane, the programme was one of the most successful to date, with strong participation from delegates.

The programme dealt with the economy and political economy, organising, negotiating and legal skills and gender studies.

Among the programme's highlights were the evening sessions. This included SACP deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin on unions in transition, Numsa auto national organiser Tony Kgobe on Numsa's three-year auto agreement, and a debate between Sacob's Bokkie Botha and Numsa's Enoch Godongwana on the Labour Relations Bill.

Registration extended

If you have not yet registered to vote in the local government elections, you now have another chance to do so. Registration will now run from 11-25 September. Those who have already registered can also check if their names are on the voters' rolls. (For more on the local election campaign see page 34).

Health and safety policy conference

About 300 union delegates are expected to attend Cosatu's health and safety policy conference on 27 and 28 October. The programme is to be ratified by the federation's CEC on September 15. The conference is expected to deal with issues such as health and safety standards and laws, the role of government departments in implementing the law, proposals for a National Health Insurance, worker health and job security, HIV/Aids and the workplace, workers and the environment, coordination and training and a programme of action around health and safety.

Bantustan labour laws repealed

From September 1 this year South African labour laws will apply to workers in every corner of the country. This is as a result of the Integration of Labour Laws Act (ILL) coming into operation. The ILL Act repeals the labour laws of the former bantustans and extends South Africa's labour legislation to the whole of the country's national territory.

In July 1994, Labour Minister Tito Mboweni established the national Planning Committee to oversee integration. In December last year President Mandela signed the ILL Act into law. The commencement of the Act was finally gazetted this year. The former bantustans were notorious for resisting worker rights in the face of a sustained campaign by Cosatu.

Many workers in rural areas stand to benefit from the integration of labour legislation. They will now have new minimum wages and conditions of employment as a result of the extension of industrial council agreements (concluded in terms of the Labour Relations Act) and wage determinations (made by the Wage Board in terms of the Wage Act) to their areas.

The new law makes it possible for the Department of Labour to integrate the unemployment insurance funds of the former TBVC states, thus putting an end to the reported fraud and corruption in the administration of these funds.

For the remainder of its lifespan, the central Industrial Court will take over the labour courts of the former bantustans.

The extension of collective agreements, wage board determinations, arbitration awards and industrial court decisions to previously-excluded areas is not automatic however. An industrial council will still have to apply to the Minister of Labour to extend the scope of application of an agreement. Presumably, this will give the Minister, in consultation with Nedlac, an opportunity to consider objections from parties who may be adversely affected, such as an employer faced with suddenly having to fork out wage increases. But many unions will be disappointed. They argue that automatic extension of agreements, awards, determinations and decisions should follow the commencement of the Act, and that employers should then apply for exemptions in the normal way.

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The right to strike

In this issue Rob le Grange looks at the strike law that is proposed by the LRA bill

Who Can Strike Under the New Law?

Almost all workers can strike. However, the following workers will not be able to strike:

  • essential service workers,
  • maintenance workers,
  • defence and intelligence services and possibly the police.
An essential service worker is someone who does such important work that, if they stop work, then this could put the lives, personal safety, or health of a part of the community in danger.

Example: Workers in an intensive care unit might be considered essential service workers, but not all hospital workers will be essential service workers because the risk to the lives of ordinary patients or the possibility of an outbreak of disease will not be great in the early stages of a strike.

Who decides what is essential service work or maintenance work?

A special committee known as the Essential Services Committee (ESC) will decide what is essential service work after listening to the views of workers, employers and the public.

Unlike the present situation, the process of determining essential service work will not be done by the Minister of Labour alone.

Essential service workers will have their disputes decided by arbitration, but they will be able to choose the arbitrator with the employer.

If an employer has machinery or technology that can cause damage if it is not constantly attended to, the employer can ask the workers who are immediately responsible for looking after the machinery or process, to be declared "emergency" workers.

Like essential service workers, maintenance workers may not strike, but an employer is also prevented from employing scab labour. An employer may only classify work as maintenance work with the approval of the ESC.

When Can You Strike Under the New Bill?

To hold a legal strike you will have to do the following:

Step 1: Refer the dispute to the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) or to the correct bargaining council if it covers your workplace.

Step 2: Up to 30 days is allowed for professional mediation of the dispute after you refer it. However, if this is obviously failing, you can go to step 3, even if the 30 days is not complete.

Step 3: After the time in Step 2 is over, give your employer 48 hours written notice of the strike. If your dispute is over a failure of the employer to bargain properly, then you must get the view of an advisory arbitrator appointed by the CCMA.

Does the union have to ballot members who are affected by the dispute?

NO!! Registered unions must have a clause in their constitutions requiring a ballot before a strike. Even so, the employer or member cannot use this requirement in the union constitution to challenge a strike that follows steps 1 to 3 above.

A short cut if the employer avoids negotiation:

If your employer imposes a change of employment conditions on you without negotiation, you can strike to try and stop such an action taking place.

Example: If the employer announces a new shift system without negotiations, then you could strike over this to stop the employer doing so without following the proper bargaining process.

In this case, follow Step 1, but at the same time give the employer 48 hours notice of your intention to strike, unless s/he withdraws the planned change. Provided your union takes these steps, you can strike without first trying to mediate ("conciliate") under Step 2.


An employer can prevent workers from working to make them accept a demand, but only after following the procedures above. Only if the employer locks-out in response to a strike can s/he hire scab labour.

Can You be Dismissed If You Strike Under the New Bill?

If you follow Steps 1 to 3 you cannot be dismissed for striking. Even if the strike lasted two months, if you decide to end it, you can go back to your job.

Under the present law there is no certainty that you cannot be dismissed for a legal strike.

Even under the draft bill, if you go on an illegal strike you could be dismissed for your illegal action. The labour court will consider how hard you tried to settle the dispute before the illegal action and how you conducted the strike when it took place. It can be expected that the Labour Court will take a harder approach to illegal strikes now that the Bill makes it easy to hold a legal strike.

However, under the draft Bill, you could face dismissal in a legal strike if:

  • you commit other misconduct during a strike, you could face a dismissal enquiry when the strike is over which could lead to dismissal.
  • the employer wishes to retrench during the strike s/he can do so, but must follow proper retrenchment procedures. This may be used as a tactic by an employer to break a strike, but it will be very difficult for an employer to get away with it in the long term, because when work increases after the strike, the employer will have to offer jobs first to the workers s/he retrenched!
An employer will have to be very careful if s/he wants to dismiss legal strikers. If the Labour Court finds s/he dismissed workers because they participated in a legal strike and not for reasons of retrenchment, s/he could be forced to reinstate workers, or pay up to two years' compensation.

Evictions And Rations

Workers receiving food and accommodation from an employer must still receive both during a legal strike or lock-out. The workers must request it from the employer, and the employer may recover the cost of both from workers after the action is over.

Sympathy Strikes

Workers may strike in solidarity with other workers who go on a legal strike. If you want to do this under the new Bill, then you must ensure that:
  • the workers you are supporting have followed the necessary steps to make their strike legal.
  • that you give 7 days notice to your employer of your sympathy strike.
The sympathy action must not cause huge damage to the business of your employer if you can only have a small effect on the business of the other employer.

Example: Workers at a steel company are on strike. The workers at the ice-cream factory next door want to support the strike. The strike at the ice-cream factory can only have a limited effect on the steel company.

Therefore it would be wise to limit the strike at the ice cream factory to a shorter protest strike.

Replacement Labour ("Scabs")

The new Bill does not ban scab labour but only allows temporary replacements. An employer cannot permanently replace the workforce who goes on a legal strike.

If an employer starts the industrial action first, by locking workers out so that they will agree to a certain demand, then the employer cannot hire replacement workers.

If the employer is only reacting to a strike by locking workers out, then s/he can hire temporary replacement workers.

Picketing Rights

It will be legal to demonstrate peacefully in the area where the public enters an employer's property. It will even be legal to picket on the employer's premises if an employer unreasonably refuses to grant permission for picketing on his property.

If there is a dispute about picketing rights, the CCMA will try and get an agreement. If there is no agreement, then a commissioner will lay down rules for a picket. If the employees or employer breaks the picket rules in a serious manner, or if the effective use of the right to picket is undermined, then the dispute can be taken court, after conciliation by the CCMA.

An employer also cannot dismiss you as part of a lock-out.

Protest Action

In future, stayaways to protest socio-economic issues will be controlled.

To enjoy protection against dismissal:

  • the protest action must be for a socio-economic reason (a campaign to get a political figure to resign would not count, but a campaign to lower municipal taxes would.);
  • the issue must have been discussed either by Nedlac or another forum in which all the affected parties can participate; and
  • Fourteen days notice must have been given to Nedlac before the strike starts.
If the action goes on too long or becomes uncontrolled, the Labour Court may remove the protection against dismissal.

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