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Shopsteward Volume 27 No. 3

COSATU Media Monitor COSATU Media Monitor COSATU Media Monitor

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Central Exec  |  COSATU Press Statements

COSATU CEC statement

19 September 2013

The Congress of South African Trade Unions held a scheduled meeting of its Central Executive Committee from 16-18 September 2013, at COSATU House, Braamfontein, attended by the National Office Bearers, leaders of affiliated unions and provincial structures.

The meeting was very successful and discussed a full agenda of political, socio-economic and organisational issues in a comradely yet robust manner.

The CEC took place against a backdrop of continuing capitalist crisis around the world and South Africa’s special crisis of mass unemployment, grinding poverty and yawning inequality. This is the context in which we have witnessed a recent upsurge in workers’ militancy.

Strikes for a living wage

Special tributes were paid to the members of the NUM in the gold mines and construction sites, NUMSA members in the auto industry and motor trades, SATAWU members working for SAA, CWU Post Office staff and SACTWU workers in the clothing and textile sectors.

All of them fought hard against intransigent employers and in most cases won substantial improvements in wages and conditions, taking forward some of the resolutions passed at the Collective Bargaining, Organising and Campaigns Conference in March this year.

National Minimum Wage

A key outcome of the Conference was in principle agreement that we should campaign for a National Minimum Wage. The recommended parameters for a figure were between R4800 and R6000. It is becoming urgent to reach a consensus with our allies, government and business on a figure for a legislated minimum living wage and to persuade the ANC to include this demand in the 2014 election manifesto.

Organising Vulnerable Workers

Each affiliate has been asked to identify the groups of vulnerable workers in their sectors and to set targets for recruitment and set aside budgets. A Vulnerable Workers’ Task Team has been convened.

Although much good work has been done to recruit and service the most exploited and vulnerable workers, most remain unorganised and much more needs to be done, especially in sectors not covered by existing unions like domestic workers and informal traders, or farm workers, of whom for example there are far too many for FAWU alone to cover. These should all be treated as national projects for all unions.

Recruitment Campaign

National figure for membership are still awaited, but:

  • Denosa won 1907 new members recruited between Jan and May 2013,
  • SACTWU has a campaign for an annual increase of 30,000 members and by March 35% of the target had been reached, and
  • NUMSA recruited 1898 members between May and July 2013.

We are continuing to ensure that we include all race groups in the recruitment campaign.

Support for affiliates

The CEC recommitted itself to campaign in support of affiliates facing challenges, including those like the NUM and SATAWU faced with rival breakaway unions. Good progress has been achieved in CWUSA, SAFPU and CWU.

Meeting with Minister of Labour

On 2nd May 2013 the COSATU National Office Bearers held a meeting with the Minister of Labour, which discussed and agreed on the need for:

  • Solving the problem of the proliferation of small, weak unions;
  • A renewed partnership between labour and the Ministry on ‘picking up the gains’;
  • Ratification of ILO Convention 189 on Domestic Workers;
  • Amendment of the Law to achieve a 40-hour working week
  • Changing UIF rules, including extension of payment, eligibility in case of resignation and creative ways of using the surplus.

Developing a COSATU Strategy on Good Governance

The February CEC resolved that it was critical for the federation to openly discuss issues relating to good governance, accountability and investment policies by all our investment companies, including Kopano ke Matla.  We need this discussion so that we can set standards for the federation which might assist in preventing continuous recurrences of embarrassing allegations which invariably weaken our internal coherency and organisation.

It was agreed that good governance is essentially about effective leadership. Leaders need to define strategy, provide direction and establish the ethics and values that will influence and guide practices and behaviour with regard to sustainability performance.

It was agreed to consider inviting an expert from such an institution as the Financial Services Board (FSB) to facilitate a proposed workshop for General Secretaries, and all our deployees who sit as trustees in various boards.

E-tolls

The meeting agreed to establish a Socio-economic Commission, as a sub-committee of the CEC. One of its first tasks will be to take forward the socio-economic campaigns already agreed to, including the campaign against e-tolls and the commodification of our public highways, which has attracted thousands of supporters and continuing. A date is to be set for a national day of action on e-tolls, better public transport and all the other campaigns.

Employment Equity Report

The CEC discussed the Employment Equity Commission Report, which covers the period up to 31 March 2013. It highlights that in the private sector white males dominate the top-management echelons by a 73% margin even though they only constitute only 11.3% of the Economic Active Population. The snail’s pace of transformation is particularly bad in the universities.

It was agreed to deepen the campaign for transformation and not only raise it once a year when the EEC Report is issued. Racism must be exposed and shamed, but at the same time we must not tolerate the appointment of incompetent staff who cannot perform the job, regardless of race.

The meeting urged all members to form Workplace Equity Forums where they do not exist and to be co-signatories of the reports. We shall support efforts by the DoL to amend the law to impose stringent penalties for non-compliance.

Appeal on NERSA determination on electricity tariff increases

NERSA allowed Eskom an average of 8% increase in electricity prices for a five year period ending 2017/18. We have since engaged NERSA to have a better understanding of the impact the 8% would have on municipal tariffs and the proportion of the 8% that would go towards supporting procurement of power from independent power producers (IPPs).

NERSA contended that that the proportion of revenue allowed to Eskom to procure power from IPPs was 1% and not the 3% Eskom had applied for. The CEC however agreed that it was wrong in principle for any public money to be going to private producers, which would contribute to the unbundling of Eskom. It was therefore agreed to challenge this 1% payment in Nedlac, the courts and if necessary the streets.

NERSA had further given guidelines to municipalities to increase electricity tariffs by 7%; those municipalities which wanted to increase tariffs by more than 7% would have their applications subjected to public hearings. In the end several municipalities received well over this, including Baviaans  at 16%, Matlosana at 14.8% and Emalahleni at 13.4%.

2nd Commission on the Mining Sector

Immediately after the setting up of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry into the Marikana massacre, COSATU called for a Second Commission to examine the underlying problems in and around the mining industry.

It was to be of a scale similar to the 1979 Wiehahn Commission into Labour Legislation and the 1995 Leon Commissions into Health and Safety on the Mines. COSATU and NUM were to proceed to develop the terms of reference, with corresponding government processes to ensure that the commission.

Some of the specific issues raised at the CEC were employers’ failure to comply with the Mining Charter, the apartheid grading structure, shack settlements around the mines, exploitation by moneylenders, and the failure to deal with mine dumps and surplus water.

The ongoing problems in the mines and surrounding areas make it more essential than ever to get the Commission running.

The Presidential Summit and the Chamber of Mines have endorsed the proposal and it is planned to involve the International Labour Organisation in a partnership and to aim to launch the inquiry in January 2014.

Engineering our Lula Moment

The COSATU 11th National Congress resolution for a radical transformation of our economy – ‘our Lula moment’ - has since been complemented by the ANC 53rd Conference Resolution for the 2nd Phase of the Democratic Transition.

These plans for a development strategy to transform the economy from one over-dependent on the export of raw materials into one based on manufacturing industry was further discussed at the Alliance Summit from 30 August to 1 September 2013 and it was agreed to set up an Alliance Task Team to formulate an alliance policy for the economy.

The Political Commission is to meet soon to take forward the outcome of the Alliance Summit, especially those areas in which progress was made, like the NDP and the national minimum wage

Important bills in Parliament

The CEC discussed a report that the Labour Relations Amendment Bill, passed in the National Assembly on 20 August 2013, did not include a full ban on labour broking. It now allows for labour broking to be used for an initial three-month period or to substitute as temporary labour. This is despite an earlier decision in the parliamentary committee to reduce labour broking to zero, in effect banning it.

The CEC agreed to keep up the campaign for a total ban of this human trafficking.

The Act also still contained a subsection 69(12) (c), which gives excessive power of the Labour Court to suspend a protected strike or picket should there be a picketing dispute. 

Whereas the current version of the LRA permits only the interdicting of a specific unlawful action committed in the course of industrial action, as opposed to interdicting an entire strike or picket, this clause opens the way for undue suppression of the fundamental right to strike, which will in turn undermine other associated rights, including those related to collective bargaining.

Section 69(1) (a) of the current LRA provides that a trade union may authorise a picket by its members and supporters.  The reference to "supporters" allows for solidarity action by other workers as well as civil society organisations, and is an essential feature of legitimate protest action.  However, a new amendment to the LRA now seeks to delete the words "and supporters" thereby prohibiting solidarity action.

COSATU had been engaged in discussions with the Department of Labour and reached an agreement on amendments to the bill, including that there would be a deletion of all new clauses that undermine the rights to strike and picket under sections 64, 65, 67 and 69.

Most of these amendments which COSATU requested have been incorporated into the bill, but with the important exception of those mentioned above. The federation has therefore called for the bill to be amended when it is referred to the National Council of Provinces.

The President has sent back the Protection of State Information Bill to Parliament for them to redraft two Clauses, 42 and 45, to make them comply with the constitution. This precludes any further discussion of the rest of the bill, and will not therefore help to deal with COSATU’s outstanding concerns with other clauses, including an excessively wide definition of national security and insufficient protection for whistle-blowers.

Facilitated process to resolve differences

A report was given to the CEC by Comrade Petrus Mashishi, who, together with Charles Nupen, has been conducted a facilitated process to resolve certain differences of opinion which have arisen within the federation. He regretted that they had not had time to complete their work and requested, and was granted, more time to finish the assignment.

A similar report was also given by a representative of Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo, a firm of accountants who are investigating allegations pertaining to the sale and purchase of the old and new COSATU Houses, who also requires more time to complete their audit.

Former COSATU leaders’ process

A request was received from several founder members and former leaders of COSATU to try to help the federation to resolve its current problems. Two of their number, Comrades Sydney Mufamadi and Alec Irwin, were welcomed to the CEC and addressed the meeting.

The CEC agreed to invite them to facilitate and chair a meeting of affiliates’ leaders to thrash out issues in a comradely atmosphere. Members of the ANC Task Team, which reportedly has been set up to assist COSATU, will also be invited.

Calls for Special Congress

It was reported to the CEC that nine affiliated unions have submitted letters to the COSATU General Secretary, which were then forwarded to the President, requesting a Special National Congress, under Clause 3.3.2. of the Constitution which states that “The President must call a special NC if ... not less than 1/3 of the affiliates in good standing submit an written request to the General Secretary for the attention of the president calling for the meeting.”

The President must then deal with the practicalities, such as cost and timing of the Congress, and the state of the affiliates. A report on progress will then be given to the November CEC

Media reports that the CEC itself called the special conference are false, as the above clause makes it clear that this is not a CEC function.

Updates from the Special CEC on 14 August 2013

The meeting confirmed the minutes of the Special CEC on 14 August and agreed unanimously that the decisions it took were COSATU policy and binding on all affiliates. The CEC agreed to investigate further charges, which will be communicated properly to those concerned.

The meeting condemned in the strongest terms possible the use of pejorative and degrading language towards women comrades, such as a derogatory term used by the General Secretary about a COSATU employee. Such comments portray women as sex objects or imply that they achieve their successes in life only through providing sexual favours to men.

The CEC made a strong appeal to all members not to

  • Leak internal COSATU stories to the media,
  • Use insulting language against other unions or individuals,
  • Degrade women comrades by the use of derogatory language,
  • Take disputes to courts rather than through internal processes.
  • Deviate from the COSATU Code of Conduct

Elections 2014

The CEC committed its full support for its ally, the African National Congress in the 2014 national and provincial elections and in the current by-elections. It has imposed a Political Levy on affiliates to provide the resources for the campaign and these are to be paid by the end of October.

International work

COSATU will be sending a strong delegation to the Conference of the Southern Initiative on Globalisation and Trade Union Rights in Australia in December 2013.

The meeting emerged strong, militant and united. The unity of the federation is sacrosanct, above all else. United we stand! Divided we Fall!

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 Direct: +27 10 219-1339
Mobile: +27 82 821 7456
E-Mail: patrick@cosatu.org.za

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