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Shopsteward Volume 26 No. 2

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements

COSATU Executive Committee Statement

14 October 1999

COSATU’s Executive Committee met on the 12th and 13th of October 1999.

The following is a summary of the issues discussed at the meeting.

Engagement with Organs of Civil Society

The Special National Congress resolved to consult with organs of civil society in search of a rigorous programme of job retention and creation and the economy’s ability to create jobs. This process, which will culminate into a National Jobs Crisis Con ference of civil society early next year, begun last week with a meeting between the federation and six organisations.

Today, and over the next two weeks, we will hold discussions with, among other groups, the following: Non Governmental Organisations, the Media, Civics, Religious formations, the youth and student movement, women, the unemployed, rural organisations, t raditional leaders and other trade union federations.

We shall strive to reach consensus on key issues related to the ongoing job losses, the structural limitations of our economy to create jobs and the plans needed to curb job losses and produce more jobs.

We have, as part of our campaign to end the Jobs Bloodbath, lodged a Section 77 notice at Nedlac. The Executive Committee expressed concern over the delays in the hearing of notice by the special committee established to hear Section 77 notices as wel l by the management committee of Nedlac.

Sectoral Summits

The Presidential Jobs Summit agreed to convene Sectoral Jobs Summits in all sectors of the economy. Exco resolved to consolidate our approach to the summits so that we make a meaningful and far-reaching participation for the success of the summits.

We will engage Nedlac so that the summits take place as soon as possible and thereby halt the further loss of jobs.

Our participation will therefore be based on the need to save jobs and strengthen the economy as a whole.

HIV/AIDS and Violence against Women and Children

Last week, the labour movement, in partnership with the government and the rest of the civil society made a pledge to increase our fight against HIV/AIDS in a public ceremony at the SABC premises in Auckland Park - Johannesburg.

Our unions are currently negotiating with the employers so that all our Shop Stewards are released on the 22nd of November 1999, to attend training sessions on the fight against HIV/AIDS. These Shop Stewards will constitute a core of cadres in the fig ht against the spread HIV/AIDS among workers and communities. >From the 23 - 30 November 1999, these trained Shop Stewards shall be HIV/AIDS awareness and related issues training in each workplace in the country.

This will be followed by the distribution of COSATU- produced HIV/AIDS material (stickers, pamphlets and condoms) in the work place and some public areas on December the 1st - World AIDS Day.

Our affiliates will also be tabling demands on HIV/AIDS during the 2000/2001 collective bargaining round. The contents of the demands, which will be finalised at a leadership workshop scheduled for early November, will, in the main, be in line with th e Special National Congress resolution.

The holding of a conference on HIV/AIDS in April 2000 will further consolidate this process.

COSATU will also wage a campaign on Women and Child Abuse. We shall accordingly participate in a series of activities organised to raise awareness on Women and Children abuse. These include: the "Africa Human Rights Day" organised by the Department o f Health on October 21, the Children’s festival to be addressed by President Thabo Mbeki on November 6, the 16 days of Activism against Women and Children’s Abuse which begin on November 25 and the International Rights Day on December 10.

Our Education and Communication Departments will develop education material on sexual offence legislation - the Maintenance and Domestic Acts and the Domestic Violence Act, which comes into effect on the 15th of December.

We will raise social awareness on this cruel act and encouraging our members and communities to report cases to the police.

This campaign is also supplemented by the good work we are doing in raising awareness on exploitation based on sex and gender and power relations.

The organisation of the Informal Sector

The informal economy is growing fast. In some countries, it is already larger than the formal economy. In Africa alone, 70% of the urban workforce works in the informal economy. The International Labour Organisation estimates that in the coming year s, the informal economy will absorb 93% of all new job seekers.

In this context, COSATU has begun a discussion aimed at conceptualising our approach to organising the informal sector.

Pension Funds

The Executive Committee reiterates is opposition regarding the prohibiting of employers from having an access the Pension Fund surplus. The surplus should be used to improve the members’ benefits. The legislation should also regulate movements from Pension to Provident Funds as often employers benefit from the surplus accumulated to Pension Funds in the process of these transfers.

The Presidential Investment Council

We have noted the convention of the Presidential Investment Council aimed at promoting investment.

We will participate in the Council as invited by the President. In doing so, we shall seek clarity on the relationship between the Nedlac and the International Investment Council.

Open Democracy Bill

The Executive Committee welcomed the government’s efforts at speeding the introduction of the Open Democracy Bill before Parliament. It is, in our view, that the Open Democracy Bill shall go a long way in restoring workers, the working class and poor’ s right to information as per the provision of our constitution.

We are, however, concerned about the following areas in the Bill:

  • The current version of the Bill falls short of its constitutional mandate to give effect to the right to access to information held by another person or the private sector;
  • There is not a sufficient emphasis on proactive disclosure of information. As a result, access is ‘requester-driven.’ Proactive disclosure of information in an accessible form will go a long way to provide access to information to the poor and disadvantaged who generally lack the resources to lodge requests for information,
  • The enforcement mechanisms proposed in the current Bill are inappropriate. The Bill provides for the High Court to be the forum where information disclosure disputes should be heard. The main problem with the High Court is that it is expensive and out of reach of the poor.

8. The African Renaissance

The Executive Committee discussed the concept of the African Renaissance. We are convinced of the wisdom of the concept and the accompanying process resulting from the conceptualisation.

Africa must emerge from the perceived and real problems that manifest themselves in corruption, military dictatorships, economic under-development, lack of human rights and other social ills.

The timing of the call for the rebirth of Africa is perfect - as all of us face a challenge to reposition our organisations to meet the challenges of the 21st century. We are committed into ensuring that this, the next century becomes an African one. We believe that the debate and process of the African Renaissance must include, as a fundamental element, a class perspective. In practical terms this includes the involvement of mass movements, workers and the working class being part of the leader ship and the major beneficiaries of the continent’s renewal.

Accordingly, we will develop a position paper that details our understanding; including practical ways through which the Renaissance should proceed.

9. Trade Agreements

European union COSATU supports the broad objectives the agreement. We shall be closely monitoring its impact of the agreement to our industries and jobs. COSATU want to also study the full implications of the agreement to our economy. Our experienc e with other trade agreements is that it does not always lead into benefits and may even lead into massive job losses.

SADC Protocol

This trade agreement that applies to the Southern African region is broadly in line with the COSATU call for strengthening of the Southern African development region. The way in which this agreement is structured raises certain concerns for COSATU like

  • Job losses resulting from companies moving to areas with lower labour standards Thereis no social clause in the trade agreement /protocol
  • We would want to see more substantial discussion on these agreements and the involvement of unions in the various countries that are signatories to the protocol.

World Trade Organisation

The next round of Ministerial meetings will take place in the U.S.A. in November 1999 and COSATU has agreed that a number of trade union leaders should be included within the government delegation, our key concern would be to ensure that the trade agre ement has a development focus and that no further liberalisation takes place without a study on the impact of the previous Uruguay round. The international experience is that the present trade regime does not benefit developing economies and we will b e aligning ourselves with the international call by N.G.O. to completely overhaul the trade regime to ensure it has a development focus. We will also be participating in the demonstrations that are planned for Seatle

10. MAY DAY

In line with the Special National Congress resolution on organisational renewal, we are going to celebrate May Day in a befitting manner in 2000. We are proceeding with plans of holding a massive workers celebration at the FNB soccer stadium. Workers and their families from Gauteng, North West, Mpumalanga, North Province and North Free State shall be mobilised to centrally celebrate 2000 May Day. We shall in addition also organise activities Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Kimberly, Bloemfontein and D urban.

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