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Shopsteward Volume 26 No. 2

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Central Exec  |  COSATU Press Statements

The CEC of the COSATU held a special meeting on 23-25 April 2012, attended by National Office Bearers, affiliated unions and provincial structures

26 April 2012

It discussed the way forward in the ongoing campaign against e-tolling, labour brokers and labour law amendments which could cripple trade union rights.

e-tolling

The CEC affirmed its total opposition to the commodification of our public road network and the imposition of electronic tolls on Gauteng highways. This will represent a huge additional burden on all motorists but particularly on workers who have no choice but to use their car to get to and from work because of the lack of a reliable and safe public transport system. It will also lead to increases in other prices because of the extra cost of transporting good from factories to retailers, at a time when consumers already face increased tariffs for electricity, rising fuel prices and increased train fares.

A report was given on the ongoing meetings of the COSATU/ANC task team which is investigating alternative ways of funding future road improvements in other parts of the country, but which has not so far agreed to scrap the e-tolls in Gauteng. These matters are to be discussed further at a meeting today between COSATU and ANC leaders.

The campaign against e-tolling will continue as planned, except for the general strike planned for 30th April 2012 which has been postponed until the second week in May. This is to give time to assess the outcome of today’s COSATU/ANC meeting and the legal action being taken by OUTA against SANRAL, and any future legal action that COSATU or others may take.

Other mass action will however continue as planned, including:

  • Mpumalanga: Blockade of 4 tollgates at Middleburg and Nkomazi on 30 April from 10h00
  • Gauteng: Blockade of the highways in Johannesburg on 30 April.
  • North West: Going back to the most expensive toll gate at Swartruggens plaza on 30 April from 7h30 in the morning until 15h30.
  • Cape Town: March from May Day rally at Good Hope Centre to Cape Chamber of Commerce and City of Cape Town at 10h00-13h00.

Labour brokers and labour law amendments

The meeting reiterated support for the demand that labour broker must be completely banned. As President Zuma said in his state of the nation address, abusive practices are inherent in labour broking. Yet government’s amendments now before parliament would still allow this trade in people and super exploitation of workers to continue, at least for six months, but for us this is six months too long.

This matter is also being discussed at an ANC/COSATU task team, and will be raised at the forthcoming Parliamentary hearings on proposed labour law amendments.

COSATU will also be engaging vigorously to defeat other amendments to the labour laws, which in their present form are the greatest threat to the right to strike since the fall of apartheid. We fought hard to win the right to strike to be included in the constitution of our new democratic country in the crucible of struggle and we will not surrender this victory.

Government and business are demanding a return to a compulsory ballot before a strike can commence, which could easily be manipulated by employers to delay strike action and demobilise the workers.

COSATU unions have always done everything to ensure that strikes are based on democratic mandates from the membership, but this must be done through the unions’ own democratic procedures, not through ballots imposed by the state and conducted by state agents.

Another threat is legislation that pickets must be limited to strikers. We totally reject this attempt to outlaw sympathy strikes and picketing, and thus weaken worker solidarity, one of the most crucial weapons in the trade union armoury.

Under the draft legislation employers can ask the Labour Court to suspend a picket and even a strike without the consent of the parties. They can seek damages for a breach of picketing rules. This opens unions up to constant attack and could see the end of smaller unions as their assets are plundered by cynical employers. The CCMA cannot be allowed to decide when it is in the public interest to intervene. This is a back door attack on our right to collectively bargain and strike.

In the wake of the hysterical and baseless DA-led attack on SADTU, government is now adopting the same false view of ‘strike-happy public servants’ and is proposing that all state employees should be called ‘essential service workers’ and therefore banned from striking.

If passed, this would reduce our public-service unions to toothless dogs, able to bark but never to bite. We run a serious danger that all the union rights enshrined in the constitution will remain only on paper. The biggest victims will be the workers who will face even more ruthless exploitation by profit-driven greed.

The excuse for all these measures is that we need to deal with the problem of violence during strikes. COSATU has always been absolutely firm in condemning acts of violence and crime. Unions have always instructed their members to behave in a lawful, peaceful and disciplined manner, and organised marshalls to enforce this

In the vast majority of events this has been achieved. But unions cannot be held legally and financially responsible for the illegal action by individuals in the vicinity of a union activity despite the unions’ efforts to prevent such acts. It could lead to unions being bankrupted and unable to defend their members.

Political discussion paper and ANC Policy Conference

The CEC had a very frank and fruitful debate on a discussion paper entitled “Navigating a complex political terrain”. It dealt with the political environment, the federation’s political posture, its relationship with the ANC and SACP, swelling the ranks of the SACP and ANC, issues of leadership and the ANC, COSATU’s organisational and political character and building internal unity within COSATU.

There was a broad consensus on all these issues and draft resolutions will be taken forward to the affiliates and the next scheduled CEC meeting in May 2012 for further debate and resolution.

The meeting also discussed all the ANC political discussion papers prepared for the ANC Policy Conference in June, and the federation’s draft responses. These too will be forwarded to the affiliates for further consideration.

Leaking of documents

The CEC strongly condemned the leaking to the media of its internal discussion papers meant to generate internal debates. COSATU has over and over again blamed this anti-organisational behaviour not on the media but on factionalists within its own ranks. The leaking of the political report to this CEC is a disciplinary challenge we face.

Of course the media has not wasted the opportunity to pick and selectively quote from these documents with a view to sensationalising the discussion paper in order to bolster sales of the newspapers. In the process untold and immeasurable damage is caused to the internal unity of COSATU and its relationship with its allies.

COSATU has repeatedly denied, and this CEC confirmed, that it is divided into pro- and anti- this and that. It is not true that its President is pro-the second term and General Secretary is anti-second term for this and that leader.

Equally it is not true that the COSATU affiliated unions are divided into pro- and anti- this and that faction. COSATU together with its leaders have not entertained leadership debates and rejects preoccupation with the leadership contests in the face of the daunting challenges demanding our unity, attention and energy.

COSATU May Day Celebrations

COSATU will be holding the annual May Day Celebrations on 1st May 2012 under the theme“Celebrating Workers Contribution in the Struggle for Liberation". There are fifteen rallies organised across all provinces in the country. The rallies will be addressed by speakers from COSATU, ANC and the SACP.

The National rally will be in Bloemfontein, Botshabelo Stadium, and will be addressed by COSATU President Sidumo Dlamini, ANC President Jacob Zuma and SACP General Secretary Blade Nzimande.

Details of the rallies in each province, which the media are invited to attend and report, are in a separate document attached.

Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)
Congress of South African Trade Unions
110 Jorissen Cnr Simmonds Street
Braamfontein
2017

P.O.Box 1019
Johannesburg
2000
South Africa

Tel: +27 11 339-4911 or 010 219-1339
Mobile: +27 82 821 7456
E-Mail: patrick@cosatu.org.za

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