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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

COSATU Media Monitor COSATU Media Monitor COSATU Media Monitor


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National Congress  |  Resolutions


3.1. Role of COSATU

3.2. COSATU Demarcation

3.3. Women Leadership

3.4. Strengthen COSATU Communications

3.5. Worker Control

3.6. Build Workers Unity

3.7. Constitutional Amendments

3.8. Super Affiliates

3.9. Organisation and Collective Bargaining

3.10. Strengthening the Farm Workers Union

3.1 Role of COSATU


Noting that:

1.The autonomy of Affiliates sometimes prevents COSATU from intervening in the affairs of its affiliates even in cases where intervention is needed.

2. There are no clear guidelines as to the role of COSATU vis-a-vis its affiliates.

Therefore resolve that:

1. COSATU must intervene in affiliates where serious problems have been brought to its attention and / or has been requested to do so.

2. COSATU leadership must be visible during major disputes between affiliates ( big and small ) and employers and co-ordinate solidarity with workers involved in disputes.

3.2 COSATU Demarcation


Noting that:

1. COSATU affiliates are involved in poaching members from each other instead of focusing on the millions of unorganised workers in all industries and / or sectors.

Believing that:

1. The COSATU Founding Congress Resolution on Industrial Unions i.e. One Union , One Industry is still valid.

2. The implementation and enforcement of this resolution will eliminate tensions between affiliates.

Therefore resolve that:

  1. Affiliates must be compelled to implement COSATU decisions.


  2. COSATU be empowered to enforce decisions that relate to poaching of members.


  3. Such enforcing mechanism to include expulsion from the Federation.


Noting that:

  1. Various affiliates have varied their scope to include sectors organised by another affiliate.
  2. That some affiliates organise outside of their scope and inside the scope of other affiliates.
  3. That in some cases this has lead to the destruction of a COSATU majority in industry bargaining forums.
  4. These actions have led to conflict between workers and affiliates.

Believing that:

  1. The conflict which has resulted from poaching has undermined the unity of the federation
  2. Poaching undermines the ability of workers in a sector to secure real improvements in wages and working conditions

Therefore resolve:

  1. That the CEC must ensure that the demarcation process in COSATU must be speeded up.
  2. That no COSATU affiliate will vary its scope into an area already covered by the scope of another affiliate.
  3. That any affiliate which currently holds membership in a sector traditionally organised by another affiliate shall immediately hand-over such members to the affiliate which traditionally organised that sector.
  4. That any affiliate which breaches the terms of this resolution shall be subject to sanction by the CEC, including suspension or cancellation of affiliation.

3.3 Women Leadership


Noting that:

  1. The women workers are still a sector that is most oppressed in the Working Class, political and economical.
  2. The partial success in implementing the COSATU resolution on women development.
  3. There areas that are still obstacles towards the development of women:
    1. The leadership in COSATU does not reflect the kind of membership.
    2. The union tendencies of sidelining the women workers in strategic meeting such as COSATU Congresses and Conferences.
    3. Delegation of strategic tasks concentrate to the male workers/leadership.
    4. COSATU and union`s structures not discussing women issues seriously as part of the federation`s and unions responsibility and lack of support for women/gender structures.
    5. Misconception of Affirmative Action "promoting black men into position traditionally occupied by the white males" without considering the women.
    6. Lack of awareness among the male counterpart.

4. The NALEDI research on women workers both "Women and Work" and "Glass Ceiling"

Therefore resolve:

  1. To allow all workers to be equal as stated in the New S. African Constitution.
  2. To actively promote the participation of women workers and the development of women leadership in union structures, federation, in the communities and the broader South Africa.
  3. To defend the women workers from all sorts of exploitation and abuse.
  4. To encourage the union to elect women as shop stewards.
  5. To encourage the unions to negotiate time-off for women.
  6. COSATU and the affiliates to make sure that within any required delegation to the meetings/conferences/congress/workshop etc. women are included.
  7. To allow the ex-officio status for women to acquaint and familiarise themselves to the issues dealt with in the strategic major committees, preferably women workers.
  8. To target a group of men to be trained on gender issues so to assist in women development. The barrier that exists between women and male workers need to be broken with a joint effort not women only.

Further resolve

  1. To support the idea of National Women`s Movement which will be led by the alliance.
  2. Process:
    1. Alliance to participate and lead the Women`s National Coalition.
    2. To work towards changing the WNC to a kind of movement that would address the needs for the disadvantage black women.
    3. To adopt the 1996 COSATU Women`s Conference Resolution and approve the Alliance Women`s Conference in 1998.
    4. Employment Standards:
    5. To continue fighting for the 40 hrs per week, 6 months paid maternity leave and reject the
    6. variations proposed by the business.
    7. Governance

  4. To encourage our female members to participate in the coming elections at all levels.
  5. To identify female comrades who represent the wishes of the workers in government.



  1. That women workers are the most politically oppressed and economically exploited section of the working class.
  2. The partial success in implementing the COSATU women’s resolutions.
  3. That problems still exist in COSATU in many areas:
    1. there are still very few women in leadership positions;
    2. the number of women shop stewards is small and is not in proportion to the number of women members,
    3. there is discrimination against women in the workplace, in terms of wages and working conditions and in society at large;
    4. women workers are still being sexually harassed;
    5. there is a tendency in union meetings to drop women’s issues out of the agenda or not to take these issues seriously;
    6. there is a low level of awareness of men in the workplace, union/federation and society, of the need to use affirmative action to change the oppressed and exploited position of women;
    7. women’s structures are not accorded full support.
    8. due to parental responsibilities, women do not attend and participate effectively in meetings.
    9. lack of maternity and child care facilities

It is further noted that:

  1. Experience has shown that separate structures for women have allowed women to build their levels of confidence, and for new leaders to emerge,
  2. That separate structures allow for political education amongst women,

Therefore resolves:

  1. To fight against all forms of discrimination against women, and to promote Affirmative Action in the workplace, union, federation and society. The workers charter and the new democratic constitution must include these principles.


  2. To actively promote the participation of women workers and the development of women leadership in union structures, federation structures and in the wider struggle in South Africa.

  3. To defend women workers against sexual harassment and educate them about their rights in this.

Further resolve, in order to achieve the above:

  1. In the Workplace


    1. To forward the following demand on non discrimination and affirmative action in every negotiation, and to fight for agreement by the employers:


      "Company commit themselves to eliminating all forms of discrimination against women in the company within a period of one year.

      It further commits itself to investigating forms of affirmative action to reverse the effects of past discrimination. The investigations will be designed to lead to an agreed programme of affirmative action, which will result in:

      • all jobs in the company being open to women workers, and women workers being employed in 50% of the jobs;
      • appropriate training programmes, including literacy training, for all women workers and which do not unfairly discriminate against male workers;


      • equal pay for work of equal value.



    2. To do research into forms of affirmative action in the workplace.



    3. To continue to fight for the implementation and upgrading of parental rights in all factories. This will include paid maternity leave, paternity leave, child care leave and child care facilities.



    4. To actively campaign around health, safety and environmental issues affecting women workers - in particular; cervical cancer, aids and working conditions for pregnant women.



    5. All company Health and safety committees should include women.



  3. The following issues should become part of our demands in Centralised bargaining;
    • COSATU’s Parental rights agreement,


    • Companies to pay for health screening for women workers


    • A binding sexual harassment code must be negotiated in the national chamber. The code should provide for companies to pay for shop stewards to be trained by the union,



  5. In the union:


    1. To take the following steps to encourage participation and leadership of women in all our activities and structures:
      • Actively campaign for the election of women shop stewards.


      • Actively campaign for the election of women to leadership positions and give women proper responsibilities.


      • Encourage the appointment of women organisers.


      • Step up our education of both men and women on women’s issues. Step up the special education of women in such areas as skills training, broad union issues.


      • Fight for paid time off for women workers to participate in all union activities.


      • Take disciplinary action against men in the organisation who sexually harass women workers and staff.


      • Ensure the proper discussion of women’s issues at all union meetings and structures.


      • Increase the budget for women’s forums and seminars.


      • Child care facilities be provided at all meetings, the EXCO will finalise the details


      • Meeting times should be sensitive to the needs of women comrades.


      • Where meetings take place after hours, the union should provide transport for women comrades.


      • Women should be encouraged to attend locals.


      • Factory General meetings should include women’s issues.


      • The research coordinator should do research on the occupations, wage levels, forms of discrimination against women workers in the factories.


      • Affiliates should adopt COSATU’s Sexual Harassment Code.



    3. Build our women’s structures as follows:


      1. Elect women representatives (preferably shop stewards) at every factory where there are women members. Women must be encouraged to become shop stewards with the assistance of organisers. Where they are not elected as shop stewards they could be elected as alternates who must be provided with training.

      3. Enforce and support the setting up of local women’s forums by the relevant structures.

      5. Regional Office Bearers to be responsible for the setting up of regular women’s forums in all regions.

      7. Establish women’s planning committees in all regions.

      9. In each region elect a women’s coordinator, to be elected by the regional women forum and whose election will be endorsed by the REC.

      11. The Regional Women’s Coordinator will:
        • be accountable to sit on the REC and RC;


        • monitor progress in factories, locals and, including visits to factory general meetings in conjunction with the affiliates’ local women coordinator.


        • convene regional women’s forums and planning meetings;


        • ensure educational and other relevant activities in locals and factories with the assistance of the local women coordinator;


        • liaise with the appropriate COSATU structures;


        • liaise with other appropriate women’s organisations as decided by COSATU;


        • check all agendas and reports to make sure that women are properly represented;


        • to be assisted by a full time official in each region.



      13. All delegations to COSATU congress, conferences, seminars and negotiations shall include women delegates in proportion to the number of women in COSATU but at least 25%, with the aim of attaining 50%.

      15. At least one office bearer at regional and national level should be a woman.

  7. Affiliated Unions


    1. At union level all unions should:
      • elect women shop stewards;


      • build women leadership;


      • build women’s forums;


      • send women delegates to COSATU meetings in proportion to the number of women in the union.



    3. At local level Regions should initiate the establishment of local women’s forums.

    5. At Regional level regions should:
      • establish women’s forums;


      • encourage unions to attend;


      • elect a women’s representative to sit ex officio on all committees of the region;


      • appoint a staff member to assist in the coordination of the women’s forum.



    7. At national level COSATU should:
      • employ a full time women’s coordinator;


      • elect at least one woman as a national office bearer;


      • build a national women’s forum representative of all unions;


      • elect from the women’s forum a national coordinator who will sit ex officio on all major COSATU committees.


  8. In Civil Society
  9. The promotion and implementation of Affirmative Action policies within the broader socio-economic sphere (i.e. education; training; parliament etc.) which will allow women to take up more meaningful positions of leadership and reflect a more equitable representation within civil society.

  10. National Women’s Movement
    • We support the idea of a National Women’s Movement. Therefore COSATU should work towards its formation.


    • The Movement will ensure that issues affecting working class women are taken up nationally.


    • The movement must be built around concrete issues facing working class women.


In order to ensure the implementation of this resolution, the following measures must be taken;

  • COSATU should popularise this resolution amongst its workers by educating male workers on the oppression of women and capitalism, parental responsibility


  • NEDCOM should ensure that all shop stewards manuals include the resolution and education on the oppression of women.


  • COSATU Bulletin should also include a series of articles on the issue.


3.4 Strengthen COSATU Structures



  1. The critical task to build a united organisation of workers which has the capacity to defend and advance the transformation process in our country and the interests of workers and for the entire society.

  3. The founding principle of COSATU for broadly based industrial trade unionism and the policy of one industry one union.

  5. There are affiliates to date who have not compiled with the sector-merger process though they were required to have accomplished unity.

  7. The attack on the working class by capital and their attempts to divide and mislead workers.

  9. Capital’s attempts at union bashing through such strategies as retrenchments, sub contracting outsourcing, deregulation, privatisation, rationalization, work re-organisation, multi-tasking and unilateral restructuring.

  11. The capital’s attempts to co-opt the leadership of the trade union movement in order to share the responsibility of managing the capitalist system.


  1. That therefore there is an urgent need to unify organised workers to lead the struggle against the political economy of capital.

  3. That if the strategy of the capitalist class succeeds it will set back the labour movement and the working class in its struggle for socialism.


  1. COSATU to strive for building the trade union movement and its capacity to defend and advance the transformation process in our country and interests of workers and for the entire society.

  3. To actively promote and implement the founding principle of COSATU for broadly based Industrial Trade Unionism and the policy of one industry one union.

  5. To resist attempts by capital to divide and mislead the workers through programmatic and unity in action.


Noting that:

  1. Unifying democratic participation of workers within COSATU has taken a decline.

  3. Unions and union members are more committed to their own organisations than to the broader political task of uniting all workers in the struggle for socialism.

  5. Participation by affiliated unions in COSATU structures and activities is very uneven.

  7. The September Commission was established to make recommendations on how best COSATU should meet the challenges of a changing national and international situation.

Noting further that:

  1. In terms of clause 17, only the National Congress may amend the Constitution.

Believing that:

  1. Restructuring the way in which COSATU operates will go a long way to addressing these problems

  3. Worker solidarity will be promoted by building a strong COSATU.

  5. In order to strengthen COSATU, certain areas in the Constitution need to be amended in accordance with our experiences on the ground and indeed some of the recommendations of the September Commission might require changes to the Constitution.

  7. The process to amend the Constitution should involve the majority of COSATU members.

Resolves that:

  1. Clause 17 of the Constitution be amended to read:
  1. The provisions of the Constitution in respect of the National Congress and Amendments to the Constitution may only be amended, repealed, added to or new provisions inserted by a resolution passed by a two-thirds majority at a quorate meeting of the National Congress, provided that the notice of the proposed amendment shall have been sent to the General Secretary and circulated finally on the agenda for such meeting to all affiliates.
  2. The Central Executive Committee shall have the power to amend all other sections and clauses of the Constitution.
  3. The procedure for amendment by the CEC shall require that any proposal shall first be tabled and discussed at a CEC meeting and that such proposal shall be circulated to all Affiliates.
  4. The subsequent normal meeting of the CEC may then adopt, amend or reject such proposed amendments.

Further resolves that:

  1. That Congress should establish a Constitutional Sub-Committee comprising of at least one person per affiliate who must present, to the second CEC following Congress, proposed amendments to the Constitution which attempts to address the problems raised above as well as any agreed recommendations arising from the report of the September Commission.

  3. Amongst others, the Committee should formulate proposals which:
  1. Gives locals more power to influence decisions of the REC along with provisions which allocates sufficient financial resources to these structures.
  2. Gives RECs more power to influence EXCO/CEC decisions.
  3. Makes provisions for the convening of worker platforms as a way to promoting and building solidarity.
  4. A quota for the formal representation by women in COSATU structures

  6. As an immediate step, COSATU Regions be re-aligned to coincide with the provincial boundaries and that the next COSATU EXCO formulates an implementation plan.

3.5 Worker Control



  1. The lack of participation by workers in many unions, including COSATU may lead to bureaucratisation.
  2. That under the capitalist system bosses run factories and enterprises for profit by exploiting workers without regard to the welfare of the entire working class.

  4. That the working class is not in control of the economy, social welfare and political life of the people.

  6. That within COSATU and the mass movement, worker control and democratic accountability has been weakened in our structures.


  1. Worker control and working class leadership is a fundamental principle of COSATU

  3. Worker control and working class leadership is a guiding principle in our struggle for Socialism

  5. Our principle of worker control and working class leadership is not only confined to our union but to the broader society to advance our struggle for the emancipation of the working class

  7. It is only under a democratic, socialist society where the working class, under the leadership of organised workers, is in control of the state and the economy that :
  1. All forms of oppression and exploitation will be eradicated
  2. All citizens will be guaranteed full collective democracy
  3. All people will be ensured decent housing, living wages and full education

Therefore resolve:

  1. To strengthen worker control at all levels of COSATU

  3. To advance worker control / participation and working class leadership at all levels of society based on class struggle

  5. Promote worker participation in all structures outside COSATU (community, ANC, SACP and meetings with the State and Capital)

  7. Educate workers politically about the importance of worker control

  9. That we continue to demand and struggle for working class control within the alliance and broad mass movement.

  11. To continue our struggle for socialism.

3.6 Build Workers’ Unity



The existence in our country of three trade union centres divided on tendencies to the detriment of worker unity.


That therefore, this division does not benefit the workers but instead weaken the workers struggle against capital.


  1. To actively promote the campaign for one country one federation through political attrition of NACTU and FEDUSA.
  2. To develop the present loose confederation relationship through a strategic engagement programme, with NACTU an FEDUSA. This will serve as a stepping stone to one federation. CEC to explore and strategies options of a confederation.


1. Unity of the Working Class

  1. That as COSATU we should recommit ourselves to the objective of uniting organised labour and establishing one trade union federation in South Africa.

  3. COSATU should deepen the emerging co-operation and call on the federations not to confine their co-operation to NEDLAC, but to strive for a situation where joint work will be extended to inter-affiliate activity and regional co-operation around campaigns such as wage struggles.

  5. That as a way consolidating emerging co-operation and as a stepping stone to realising our objective of one-country, one-federation, COSATU should initiate talks with NACTU and FEDUSA, with the aim of establishing a loose confederation of trade unions (CONFTU).

  7. that when negotiating with other federations on the formation of a confederation, COSATU’s mandate will be:
    • to establish a loose confederation


    • that while bringing together COSATU, NACTU and FEDUSA, the


      confederation will not take away the autonomy/independence of affiliated federations.

    • that such a confederation should be structured at national, inter-affiliate, regional, local levels, joint shop stewards levels.


    • that one of the ways on which the confederation will work will be through annual worker summits at the beginning of each year.


    • that the aim of these will be to work out an annual agenda for labour.


2. Unity of international workers

  1. COSATU to encourage its affiliates to develop a strategy to build unions in Southern Africa including working towards setting up an African Shop Stewards Council where Economic Policies can be debated. Put in place carefully calculated strategies so as not to destroy Economies of these underdeveloped, developing neighbours.

  3. Develop a common view of our international situation with other fraternal unions with a view to developing common programmes, campaigns and actions. To link with other unions world-wide on specific issues or common struggles e.g. collective bargaining strategies, privatisation, etc.

  5. That COSATU convenes an International Conference of Trade Unions, NGOs, Churches and sympathetic governments to discuss the IMF World Bank and the World Trade Organisation so as to exchange experiences and programmes.

  7. To continue with other federations to support workers who are denied the right to organise by repressive regimes.

  9. COSATU should hold an international week every year that would end with May Day celebrations focusing on a specific international theme. During that week, COSATU to produce posters, information, t-shirts in regard to the theme adopted.

3.7 Constitutional Amendments


Amend clause 4.4 to exclude elected office-bearers of the federation and affiliates in the definition of an "Official".

The new definition of an official to read thus:
"an employee of the federation or any of its affiliates other than an elected office bearer whose terms and, conditions are determined from time to time by the Executive Committee"

Amend clause 4.5 and define an office-bearer as:

"An office-bearer means a person who is elected to hold office in the federation nationally and regionally as specified in this constitution."

Add:- An affiliate office-bearer means a person who is elected to hold office in any of the affiliated unions, nationally and regionally as specified by the respective affiliates constitution.

Amend clause 7.2.1 to read:

"Two representatives from each affiliated union with a membership of less than 100 000 at least one of whom must be a member or an elected office-bearer of such an affiliated union, and four representatives from each affiliated unions with a membership greater than 100 000, at least two of whom must be members or elected office-bearers of such affiliated union."

Amend clause 7.5.1, second paragraph 2 to read:

"A quorum at meetings of the Central Executive Committee shall be representation by at least half of the affiliated unions in good standing, provided that at least half of the delegates shall be members or elected office-bearers of affiliated unions."

Amend clause 8.1 to read:

Retain the clause as is, but amend from "provided" to read:

".............., provided that at least one of the two delegates is a member or an elected office-bearer of such affiliates."

Amend clause 8.3.3 to read:

"A quorum for an Executive committee meeting shall be representation by at least half of the affiliated unions in good standing represented in the Central executive committee, provided that at least half of the delegates shall be members or elected office-bearers of affiliated unions.

3.8 Super Affiliates



  1. Worker unity presupposes efficient servicing of membership and workers in general.

  3. There are other unions within particular sectors who lack to provide efficient service and organise workers.

  5. Co-ordinating activities and administration of widespread affiliates is a laborious and cumbersome process resulting in lack of efficient administration and prompt implementation of decisions.


  1. The congress mandates the NEC to commission a study on the implications of super unions and take into account the following areas :
  • accountability & mandates
  • bureaucracy
  • service to membership
  • administration
  • worker control

3.9 Organisation and Collective Bargaining



  1. The need for COSATU to consolidate its organising strength, and sharpen its focus, under the new conditions nationally and internationally.

  3. The opportunities for a fighting federation of the working class to advance worker rights through the basic rights in the new constitution, legislation, government policy, tripartite agreements and collective bargaining.

  5. The sustained offensive against worker rights by business internationally.

Therefore resolves :

  1. To strengthen the role and capacity of the federation in taking up the problems and challenges facing working people and their communities.

  3. To request the CEC to address the staffing and financial situation of the trade union movement, in order to :
    1. Give greater focus to the staffing resources.
    2. Eliminate work duplication, and increase the productivity of all staff in the federation, including where necessary, through the consolidation of the number of posts.
    3. Improve the service to members at workplace level, both in dealing with day to day problems, and in campaigns to change working conditions.
    4. Develop a uniform set of conditions of employment and training, for all staff in the federation and its affiliates, with a common wage structure, which applies to all affiliates, and the federation.

  5. That affiliates should co-ordinate, through COSATU, their collective bargaining programmes, so that over a period of three years:
    1. Wage policy is determined at federation level.
    2. The basic wage agreement is reached at macro level, covering all workers in South Africa, through direct negotiation between COSATU and employers in the private sectors.

  7. To build a stronger layer of leadership in order to compensate for the loss of skills as trade union activists are deployed in other structures, through :
    1. Creating regional internal forums where debates can take place regularly.
    2. Active engagement in campaign and struggles, which still provide the best school for trade union leaders.
    3. Strengthening the federation’s capacity to deliver training to shop stewards and staff, through its own staff and through other trade union educational institutions, and to make finical resources available from affiliates for this function.

  9. To facilitate the growth of the federation through :
    1. A major new recruitment drive to reach at least a 50% level of unionisation of COSATU affiliates in all sectors.
    2. Seconding experienced trade unionists at national and regional level to assist the federation to run these campaigns.
    3. Opening doors to affiliates of other federations who seek to join COSATU.
    4. A membership drive among white collar and white workers.

3.10 Strengthening the Farm Workers Union


Noting that:

The 1991 National Congress of COSATU took a step forward in a strong single farm workers union in the agricultural sector.

This goal was ultimately achieved in February 1995 when SAAPAWU was formed.

The former unions, FAWU, PPWAWU and SACTWU had jointly organised 29420 at the time of the launch.

This sector has two focal points that it has a vast potential of poorly paid workers and that there are a number of mushrooming unions, which are confusing the workers on the ground.

The union is presently facing financial crisis due to the nature of the sector and the attitude of the conservative white farmers which creates a handicap towards a viable union which could unite all the workers in the sector.

Believing that:

It was a proper decision by the Federation to establish a single union in the agriculture sector.

In order for the union to be strong viable force it needs to get some outside funding to kick-start it. A strong union will be able to unite and mobilise all workers in the sector and thus improving the well-being of the rural community.

Therefore resolve that:

The congress reaffirms its position of supporting a single farm-workers union and that ways of strengthening the union will be prioritised.

COSATU leadership should assist SAAPAWU in mobilising funds to boast the financial viability of the union.

The farm unions i.e. FAWU, PPWAWU and SACTWU should be encouraged to work closely with SAAPAWU in order to strengthen in the process.

SAAPAWU should encourage its leadership at all levels to full participate in COSATU structures in order to be empowered.