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Shopsteward Volume 23 No. 4

COSATU Media Monitor COSATU Media Monitor COSATU Media Monitor

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Central Exec  |  COSATU Press Statements

COSATU Central Executive Committee media statement, 28-30 May 2012

31 May 2012

The Congress of South African Trade Unions held a scheduled meeting of its Central Executive Committee from 28-30 May 2012, attended by the national office bearers, all 20 affiliated unions and provincial leaders.

Addressing unemployment crisis with focus on youth and women unemployment crisis

Throughout its existence COSATU has consistently profiled the triple crisis of unemployment, poverty and inequalities. We have over and over again warned that the country is sitting on a ticking bomb, which is beginning to explode in many parts of our country. We have urged that no stone must be left unturned in search of a solution to this epidemic.

The previous CEC took a decision to form a task team to develop proposals and engage with government on the massive problem of youth unemployment. Young people constitute 63% of the working population, yet they make 72% of the unemployed. If we fail to provide these young people with the prospect of work and an income, the consequences for us all will be tragic.

We have urged that the crisis of unemployment is structural and requires interventions to address the structural deficiencies we inherited from our colonial and apartheid past. Unless we can address these apartheid fault lines such as the dysfunctional education that continues to sideline millions and provide them with inadequate skills, we will not solve the crisis of unemployment. A lot of the unemployed youth should in fact be at school, acquiring skills and increasing their employability potential.

In September 2010, COSATU proposed a package of comprehensive proposals, in the Growth Path towards Full Employment which was largely ignored by many as they felt it was too radical. Yet the challenge we face demands radical policies.

We have welcomed the tabling of the government’s New Growth Path but insisted that in its current form and without radicalising its policy proposals it will fail to address the structural nature of the unemployment crisis. We have nevertheless started to engage with the government, and labour and the other three Nedlac constituencies have signed the following accords, which will help us to play our full part in addressing some of the major challenges at hand and creating 5 million new jobs by 2020:

  • The Basic Education Accord, premised on the realisation by every stakeholder that our education system is not producing expected results from Grade 1 to 12, which will in the long run have a negative impact on job creation and the economic future of the country.
  • The National Skills Accord, aimed at expanding and improving training.
  • The Local Procurement Accord, in line with the goals of the Industrial Policy Action Plan.
  • The Green Economy Accord, which has a rich potential to create more jobs and create a healthier world.
  • Our starting point is that any solution will require an interventionist developmental state, and that job creation must be based on three pillars: a) expansion of social infrastructure and services, b) expansion of physical infrastructure and c) building value-chains for broad-based industrialisation.

Policies that rely solely on the private sector for implementation will not work, as they have largely failed to take advantage of current skills development programmes.

The strategy should be complemented with a Youth Employment Accord, to be substantially completed during June - youth month.

COSATU has already begun to discuss with government and requested that youth unemployment be elevated to the level of Growth Path engagement by political principals.

We are calling for a high-level national conference on youth employment, preferably before the end of June 2012, drawing in youth organizations youth, labour and community structures, together with government. Such a high level and representative national conference should seek to ensure that all the resolutions taken in the 2010 and 2011 jobs for youth conferences are implemented.

We need to look at among others, the nature of the crisis, its structural roots, the link with key developmental issues and what can be done both short-term and structurally to address it, with serious papers by economists on what is being done across different parts of the world.

We need to adopt an approach to youth employment that recognises that aggregate employment needs to be increased to avoid displacement and youth and older workers competing for the same jobs.

As part of building state capacity, we need to fill all vacant posts and re-skill existing unemployed graduates, some of whom can be trained so that they become educators in both the expanded schooling system and the FET sector, and also be trained to offer critical support to the departments in the social development and the criminal justice system clusters, where staff shortages are most acute.

Among the issues we should look at is a national youth cooperative scheme, with funding to set up youth controlled cooperatives. They must however be genuine co-operatives, not set up by an employer to exploit workers even more ruthlessly. This could be complemented by special measures to promote youth-owned small businesses.

Preparations towards 11th National Congress, 17-20 September 2012

The CEC agreed that the main Congress theme will be ‘Strengthen COSATU for total emancipation’, with two subsidiary themes: ‘Celebrating working class contribution to the liberation struggle: celebrating the ANC centenary’ and ‘Deepening unity of the leading detachment of the working class and confronting the triple challenges’.

A key discussion will be to assess progress towards the implementation of the document “Consolidating Working Class Power for Quality Jobs – Towards 2015”, popularly referred to as the 2015 Plan, which was adopted by the 8th COSATU National Congress in October 2003.

At the moment we are forced to conclude that the second decade of democracy will follow the path of the first decade in which the main economic beneficiaries were capital. Unemployment is still at an outrageous level of 36%. 71% of the population and 44% of workers are living on less than R10 a day. Inequality is widening alarmingly. Every year there are 120 usually violent service delivery protests.

Unless COSATU leaders and its member adopt a new mindset, unless every cadre of the movement adopt a new mindset, our national democratic revolution is in danger of being derailed.

That is why the 11th COSATU Congress, being the last Congress before 2015, will be expected to make a more rigorous assessment, look critically at the trade union movement itself and if necessary to amend the 2015 Plan where appropriate.

A comprehensive assessment document, which will incorporate the results of the 2012 Worker Survey, and the 2012 COSATU Affiliate Survey (both currently being conducted by Naledi), will be presented for discussion. The outcomes of the COSATU Gender, International and the Education and Skills Development Conference, will also feed into the final document.

Report from Bilateral meetings

ANC bilateral

The meeting was given a report on the follow-up to the bilateral meeting with the ANC on 26th April 2012 and the task teams which it established to look into proposed changes to the labour laws and e-tolling.

On labour law amendments progress has been made on some of the proposals which COSATU opposed.

Government had proposed a new definition of workers in Essential Services which included all those “who exercise power on behalf of the state”, which would have meant that even those in education would be described as an essential service, with the resultant effect of their right to strike being taken away, rendering the trade union movement a toothless dog.

The task team agreed to have this matter removed from the proposals on the labour amendments and have it dealt with by relevant Bargaining Councils

On violence during strike action, the task team agreed to remove this proposal from the labour law amendments and have it discussed under the Public Gatherings Act.

On balloting before strike action, the ANC had argued that balloting could be used as a mobilising tool at the advantage of the unions. COSATU’s view has been that this will effectively compromise and finally take away the right to strike, because employers will employ tricks and delaying tactics leading to the demobilisation of workers and strikes not taking place.

On Labour Brokers, the ANC continues to insist on the 6-month period in which a worker can be under the control of the labour broker. COSATU argues that this will perpetuate exploitation during that six month period and employers will find creative ways to evade getting workers employed on a full-time basis if this loophole is allowed in the legislation.

While some progress is being made, it is important to finalise these discussions as quickly as possible. The government intends to table its revised legislative proposals on 18 June 2012. We shall have to respond and take the matter to the membership.

On e-tolls the bilateral meeting agreed to ask government to postpone the implementation of the e-toll collection system by a month in order to give the task team more time to explore alternative funding mechanisms, and this was done.

The CEC agreed to maintain the pressure for alternative funding models, including a 14c a litre increase in the fuel levy, as a short-term measure while long-term models are worked out.

Should we fail to reach agreement on these important issues, the CEC insisted that we will go back to the streets.

SACP Bilateral

COSATU and SACP National Office bearers held a bilateral meeting on 21st May 2012 at the COSATU Head Office. The meeting agreed on a joint programme of action which included the following campaigns:

  • Ideological work: Joint political education programmes.
  • E-tolls: The meeting agreed that we were not to exclusively focus on rejecting the user-pay principle but emphasising that the e-tolls were not necessary at all and put emphasis on accessible, safe and affordable public transport. We need to help our ANC alliance partner to be a strategic centre capable of marshalling government.
  • Labour brokers – to heighten the campaign.
  • Brett Murray Painting: Agreed on the campaign against the denigrating painting depicting the ANC President. The organising departments of the two formations were to work towards mobilisation for a successful march the following week.
  • A socio-economic programme focusing on the assessment of the conditions of the working class
  • Developing a common understanding on the salient features of the moment. What are the things we are supposed to be doing but could not do and what were the limitations. What are the things we can do?
  • Assessing the state of our organisations and closing loopholes which may have led to us being opened up to attacks by the right wing.
  • Translating the Polokwane commitments into reality.
  • Joint preparations towards the ANC policy Conference.

The meeting also agreed that the next meeting was to focus on dealing with how these would be translated into proper action plans with time lines. The two General Secretaries were to work towards ensuring a more focused programme in the next meeting with details on how the work of the political commission will be taken forward.

Concept paper: towards new collective bargaining, wage and social protection strategies

The CEC was presented with a discussion paper, Towards new collective bargaining, wage and social protection strategies.

This arose from a discussion at the November 2011 COSATU CEC which recognised that the crisis of collective bargaining and wages in the clothing sector is a broader challenge to the labour movement. Current collective bargaining institutions are being constantly destabilised and there is no coherent wage policy to address poverty and inequality amongst workers, or a coherent framework to link our labour market strategies and institutions to a broader economic development strategy.

This paper attempts to analyse the fundamental shortcomings in wage and income policies and their failure, as well as the failure of our voluntaristic collective bargaining institutions, to transform our apartheid labour market, and to then look at what shifts are required to meaningfully address these challenges.

These shifts can only succeed, particularly in fighting the scourge of unemployment, if they are accompanied by radical restructuring of our economic policies. The paper looked at the experience in other countries, including Brazil under President Lula.

The CEC agreed that the paper will be taken to the affiliates for a thorough discussion and be then referred to the National Congress.

ANC Policy Discussion Papers

The CEC received reports from the CEC Commissions which drafted responses to all the Discussion Papers which will be presented to the ANC Policy Conference in June. These will be further discussed by affiliates and then at a meeting of the CEC Political Commission in June.

The meeting agreed however that our main focus should be on the papers on ‘The Second Transition: Building a National Democratic Society and the balance of forces in 2012’ and Organisational Renewal, which have the potential to become a programme to overcome the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

Retirement funds and Financial Services Laws General Amendment Bill

It was reported that the COSATU Retirement Fund committee had been called to an urgent meeting by National Treasury to be informed of the developments in the retirement reform process that they intend to take. COSATU’S response is that:

  • Treasury has introduced proposals for piecemeal reforms of retirement funds, knowing full well that these can’t take place outside the context of the comprehensive social security reform. For example, proposals for mandatory preservation of retirement funds (preventing workers from drawing funds before retirement), can’t be implemented in a situation where there is no income support for the majority of unemployed workers.
  • Treasury is calling for the end of provident funds, a complex and explosive issue, which cannot be addressed in such a high-handed way. We must call on Treasury to cease these counterproductive interventions, and to submit to the process of discussing comprehensive reforms.
  • Extensive consultation appears to have taken place between Treasury and the Financial Service Sector, both on their piecemeal proposals, and the pending policy paper, over a prolonged period of time. However organised labour has been excluded from this process which has evolved since 2007, apart from minimal and superficial contact. This is an insult to workers, since decisions are being taken about them on critical issues of interest, including how their pensions, which are deferred pay, are managed.

The CEC therefore agreed that we shall demand:

  • The release of the document as promised in the budget speech
  • A bilateral between the Minister of Finance and COSATU
  • A Bilateral with Department of Labour on a parallel process they are engaged on to establish a provident fund for domestic and farm workers.

The CEC noted that the Financial Services Laws General Amendment Bill is currently before Parliament. It contains provisions which seek to absolve financial regulatory institutions such as the Financial Services Board (FSB) from “any loss sustained by, or damage caused to, any other person as a result of anything done by or omitted by that person in the exercise of power or the carrying out of any duty or the performance of any function under or in terms of this Act...”

The Bill contains consequential absolving provisions by removing certain provisions of the FSB Act, which provisions will have the effect of removing recourse against the FSB for negligence actions.

The meeting agreed that the implications of these proposals are very serious and cannot be allowed to be legislated without a thorough public discussion on the matter.

The proposed amendments affect millions of pension fund members nationally, potentially to their detriment, as it might remove any recourse for past, present or future wrong-doing which pension fund members may have against financial regulatory institutions such as the FSB.

Suck serious pension fund regulatory reform cannot take place without a detailed engagement with organised labour.

The CEC therefore resolved to:

  • Call on all retirement funds involving members of COSATU in particular and pensioners in general to place this matter on the agenda of their next meetings to urgently take such steps as may be necessary to safeguard the interests of retirement fund members against any possible prejudice in consequence of these proposed amendments;
  • Call for the bill to be tabled at Nedlac for tripartite engagement on its provisions;
  • Call for the bill to be amended so that it strengthens, not weakens, the interests of retirement fund members;
  • Commission an urgent legal opinion on the possible negative consequences of the proposed bill on members;
  • Mobilise for a programme of mass action, including a national strike, if satisfactory steps are not taken to remove potential prejudicial provisions and to strengthen safeguard measures for the interests of retirement fund members.

Traditional Courts Bill

The CEC agreed that we have to oppose the Traditional Courts Bill now before Parliament, as it presents a serious threat to the rights of women in rural areas. We shall ask for discussions with government on this.

SALGA

The meeting expressed its anger at the decision by the SA Local Government Association, representing the municipal employers, to terminate the Conditions of Service Agreement and the Disciplinary Code and declared its full support for SAMWU in opposing this.

Post Office strike

The CEC supports the strike by Post Office workers employed by labour brokers, who earn as little as R2000 a month. This is part of the broader struggle against the super-exploitation of workers by labour brokers. The federation is to intervene to find a resolution of the dispute.

Violence against women and children

The CEC expressed their disgust at the intolerable level of violence against women and children. They urged all members to support the march in the North West Province on 15 June 2012 in Potchefstroom and to organise similar marches in other provinces, including demonstrating at the trial of the man accused of murdering his nine-year-old step-daughter and the parents of a two-month-old baby who was allegedly beaten to death in Tshwane, and at all courts where similar cases are being heard.

Western Sahara

The meeting was addressed by the Western Sahara Minister for African Affairs of the Polisario government in exile. He thanked COSATU for its consistent support for their people’s struggle against colonialism. The liberation movement is awaiting the outcome of a move by the United Nations to broker a settlement. In the meantime there was still a great need for humanitarian relief for those in refugee camps in Algeria.

March to Goodman Gallery

On Tuesday morning the CEC meeting adjourned and moved en masse to join the march to the Goodman Gallery in Rosebank to demand the removal of the offensive and humiliating portrait of Comrade Jacob Zuma from its website.

The CEC agreed that this was not just an insult to one individual, but to the democratically elected President of our country, and therefore all the people of South Africa. The constitutional right to freedom of expression is not limitless; it must be balanced against the equally important constitutional right for all citizens to be treated with respect, which this painting blatantly contravened.

Following the march, the Goodman Gallery agreed to remove the painting from their website, which followed the earlier similar decision by City Press. We thank all those who marched and helped to achieve this victory for the basic human right to be treated with dignity.

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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