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COSATU  Central Executive Committee statement

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COSATU  Central Executive Committee statement

25th November 2021

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Introduction

The Congress of South African Trade Unions held a successful Central Executive Committee meeting from 22-24 November 2021 to discuss several issues affecting the workers, and the working class in general. The meeting was attended by the COSATU National Office Bearers, provincial leaders, and leaders of affiliated unions. 

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 Organisationally 

The CEC reflected on the challenges facing the labour movement and mandated the federation to elevate its work of building a strong class-conscious movement of shop-stewards that is united beyond the narrow divisions of their sectors or unions. This calls for a dedicated approach to the resuscitation of the locals throughout the country. Solid locals are very key in strengthening the organizational capacity of COSATU in order to position it to play its pivotal role to respond to the current challenges and targets that it set for itself. This means that we need to strengthen our resolve to stick to our long-held traditions of worker control, class consciousness and placing service to members at the centre of our overall programme. This must also include a concerted fight against any creeping of bureaucratism, labour aristocracy or business unionism within the trade union movement in general.

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NEHAWU Congress– The meeting congratulated NEHAWU for convening a successful national congress. This is in keeping with the founding traditions of the Federation of worker control, democracy and accountability.   

Provincial Congresses– All provinces have been directed by the CEC to convene their provincial congresses in January 2022 in keeping with the Constitutional injunctions but also in preparation for the National Congress in September next year 

SACCAWU Strike- The CEC offered its full support to the workers at Massmart who are pushing back against the undermining of their rights and the unilateralism that has been adopted by a hostile employer. We call on employers to accede to the fair and legitimate demands of these workers. 

May Day: The May Day celebrations will continue to be decentralised across the country with the National Celebrations taking place in North West Province, Marikana.

Campaigns

Gender Based Violence– The CEC applauded all affiliates for campaigning against gender-based violence and demanding for the ratification of ILO Convention 190 on Elimination of Violence and Harassment. The fight against GBV is an ongoing fight that demands everyone’s participation. The final steps of South Africa’s ratification will be concluded shortly.  We welcome Parliament’s progress on the three Gender Based Violence Bills because these will be important weapons in the fight against GBV. 

COVID-19: The meeting expressed concern over the notable rise in COVID-19 infections and called on all South Africans to continue to take this deadly virus seriously. This is no time to be complacent because any reckless behaviour puts both the lives and the economy at risk.  

Vaccination -We congratulate all workers and their families who participated in the national vaccination program. We reiterate our call on workers and South Africans in general to vaccinate. We will redouble our efforts to engage and mobilise workers and their families to vaccinate because this is key to saving lives and livelihoods. The federation and its unions are making progress, and we are well on our way to  achieving the 80% vaccination rate of our members and officials.

  

Socio-economic 

Impact of Austerity Budget Cuts- The South African government’s fervent adherence to failing Neoliberal policies is reckless and a betrayal of the working class. The recent mid-term budget policy statement has continued the austerity trajectory, and this will make attempts to resuscitate the economy virtually impossible. These budget cuts have decimated the CCMA, the school sanitation programme, and affect the teacher learner ratio.

The recent crime statistics are a reminder of the devastating impact that budget cuts are having on service deliver. Law enforcement agencies are not just struggling with staff shortages, but they are also poorly equipped. We intend to work with other progressive organisations to demand a people centred budget speech in February next year. 

The July riots were a reminder that the current economic mismanagement has real consequences like social dislocation and upheavals. The capitalist system is failing in every sphere of human activity, to deliver any results. No further social progress can be attained at the back of a capitalist system. It is a system that has become more obsolete and irrational. It is therefore the role of the trade union movement to build revolutionary class-consciousness to inform workers of the fundamental solutions to the current crisis and capitalist society. 

State-Owned-Enterprises-The CEC expressed concern about the continued deterioration of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs). The meeting resolved to continue to put together ideas that will contribute towards fixing the economy and this includes coming up with clear solutions on saving State Owned Entities. Government needs to work with labour and business to develop clear road maps to get these SOEs back on a sustainable trajectory.  Retrenching workers or failing to pay them their salaries is not acceptable.   

Eskom- The Federation intends to continue to constructively contribute to a process of finding a solution to the electricity crisis facing the country. The allegations of sabotage that have been raised by Eskom leadership need to be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators arrested. We demand that Eskom prioritise investing in local manufacturing of renewal energy generation. It is critical that a Just Transition for mines and electricity power plants that have reached the end of their life span is put in place so that no workers are left behind. 

Corruption and Wasteful Expenditure-The CEC called for the intensification of the fight against corruption and wasteful expenditure. We reiterate our call for centralisation of public procurement of large items, the introduction of an online open public procurement platform, the establishment of rapid response anti-corruption courts, and most critically the banning of Politically Exposed Persons and their spouses and children from doing business with the state.  The Federation welcomes government’s commitment to tabling the Public Procurement Bill at Nedlac by the end of 2021. 

Basic Income Grant- The CEC has committed itself to exerting more pressure on government for the introduction of the Basic Income Grant in South Africa.  The government needs to extend the Covid-19 Special Relief Dispensation Grant, and increase it to the food poverty line and build upon it to achieve a BIG. 

Buy Local Campaign– We also intend to contribute positively in the promotion of #BuyLocal campaign by ensuring that all our unions and structures procure local goods to save jobs.  The government and the private sector need to play their role in supporting local procurement.  The recent designation of locally produced cement for public infrastructure is a welcome step in this regard. 

UIF AND SASRIA -The CEC acknowledged progress made by government to dispense over R32.9 billion through the various relief measures provided for to victims of the July violence in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.  But the delays by the UIF in paying workers who lost their wages is totally unacceptable call on the Minister of Labour to attend to this matter urgently. It is disappointing that government does not have a plan to improve the capacity of the UIF’s archaic systems that have made it difficult for workers to get their money on time.   We also call on government to intervene and make sure that SASRIA provides relief to all companies including the small ones that are being left behind for some bureaucratic reasons.

Pension Withdrawal Scheme– The meeting welcomed Treasury’s commitment to release a policy paper and then table an Amendment Bill in the February Budget providing for distressed workers limited access to their pension funds.  This needs to be expedited because it will provide badly needed relief to highly indebted workers.  The meeting insisted that this should include both public and private sector workers. 

Legislation– COSATU looks forward to Parliament’s passing the Compensation of Injury on Duty Amendment Bill which will extend cover to over 800 000 domestic workers as well as include cover for occupational diseases and post-traumatic stress.  This will benefit mine workers, security personnel and women in particular.  

The Federation is pleased with Parliament’s progress in processing the Employment Equity Bill which will broaden cover for persons with disabilities and will help advance the cause of employment equity in workplaces.

Companies Amendment Bill- The CEC welcomed Nedlac’s processing of the Companies Amendment Bill and looks forward to its tabling at Parliament by 2022. The Federation rejects the hypocritical attacks on it by some opportunist individuals in Organised Business. Such behaviour undermines Nedlac as BUSA was part of the Nedlac engagements on the Bill and largely endorsed its provisions and objectives. COSATU strongly supports and will defend this progressive, transformational and long overdue Bill. It compels listed companies to disclose their wage gaps and for these to be included in their Annual Reports. This will be an important tool to begin to reducing the Apartheid wage gaps still prevalent in the private sector. It requires the full identity of company ownership to be disclosed in line with international requirements to combat money laundering, state capture and terrorism. It obliges companies to share their financial reports with trade unions. This is important to ensure wage negotiations take place in a fair and transparent manner and will help contribute towards labour market stability. 

On Politics 

Year 2022 – The Year of Congresses/Conferences-This meeting reflected and noted that next year will be one of the busiest and most politically consequential year for all Alliance partners with all of them convening their important Constitutional meetings, including electing new leaders. 

This means a lot of political work must be done to deal particularly with the unfortunate aspect of the current political landscape, which is the obsessive focus on divisive leadership contests, especially within the ANC. 

This problematically endemic politics around personalities or slates within the ANC, in part makes possible what we have disgracefully witnessed in July where members of the ANC encouraged deadly and destructive riots in KZN and Gauteng. 

But also, it would be a mistake to believe that the other components of the Alliance or MDM are immune from the influence of these corrosive tendencies that are typically endemic in mass organisations

We all need to collectively work to dislodge the networks of patronage that thrive in an environment where there are declining levels of class consciousness and discipline. These are major challenges facing the entire movement and they are deeply connected to the extreme inequalities, rampant capitalist exploitation and culture of personal accumulation that defines our society, including the trade union movement in terms of business unionism. 

NDR and the Balance of class forces -As we have recognised before, unless the working class is united, is ideologically independent as a class and develops its own capacity to raise itself onto a hegemonic position in key centres of power the radical second phase runs the risk of being reduced into a pipedream. In fact, the current difficult economic climate and mismanagement of some of the key State-Owned Enterprises (especially Eskom) have become added armaments for the enemies of the NDR and even for pockets of the Neoliberal forces within the state seeking to derail or dilute the radical second phase. Their calls for privatisation have become increasingly loud at a time when the central task is to build a capable developmental state. This is a huge challenge and a big test that the working class cannot afford to fail because the consequences are too horrifying to imagine.

Local Government Elections -The CEC congratulated all South Africans who came out to vote and exercise their democratic rights and also strengthened and consolidated our democracy. The meeting also expressed its deep appreciation to the millions of workers and South Africans who came out to vote for the African National Congress {ANC} in the 2021 Local Government Elections.  The results were deeply disappointing with the ANC’s share of the national vote decreasing dramatically to below the 50% mark.  

The Federation plans to convene a political Commission to do a comprehensive analysis of the local government elections outcomes and their impact on the NDR and the Alliance. We also intend to push for an urgent Alliance Summit to do a thorough and honest a post-mortem analysis of the elections and outcomes of the coalition talks. This Alliance summit is necessary to discuss the content, character and direction of the National Democratic Revolution.  

The Federation will work with SAMWU to ensure that the newly elected councillors and newly formed Coalitions respect workers.

International  

Swaziland-The CEC expressed concern over the brutalisation of all those who are fighting for democracy in Swaziland.  We condemn the violence by the regime directed at political activists, and call on all peace-loving and freedom loving South Africans to support the struggle for a free and democratic Swaziland. We plan to work to support the Swazi trade union movement and improve our solidarity work for the Swaziland workers. 

AU-Israel- The people of Palestine continue to be subjected to terrible conditions by the Israel –apartheid brutality. Israel continues its settlements expansion in Palestinian territories and scores of Palestinians are getting killed in the seizure of their lands. We reaffirm our solidarity with the people of Palestine and we are calling for an end to the evictions of the Palestine man and woman and the brutalization of its children. The Federation supports the formation of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital and the Israelis must affirm the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland.

Cuba-The economy of CUBA continues to be strangled by economic sanctions imposed by the US government. The Cuban regime is still subjected to political machinations and interference by United States. The federation has resolved to continue to campaign against the American interference in Cuba and offers its full support to the people of Cuba. We shall continue to mobilise resources to ensure that we give humanitarian support to the resilient people of Cuba.

Venezuela-The CEC congratulates President Maduro and his allies for winning 20 of 23 governor posts, as well as the mayorship of the capital Caracas in the recently held elections. This is testament to the resilience of the people of Venezuela who have refused to bullied and by the US imperial offensive against their government and country. 

 

Issued by COSATU 
  

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