Source: The Presidency
Title: SA: Motlanthe: Address to the 4th Fedusa National Congress (06/11/2008)
President of FEDUSA Mary Malete,
General Secretary Dennis George,
National Office Bearers,
Members of the National Executive Committee,
Provincial Executive Committee Members,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Comrades and Friends,
I wish to thank you for inviting me to your Fourth FEDUSA National Congress.
As a trade union federation representing a significant component of the work force in our country, FEDUSA plays an important part in the evolving South African nation.
Therefore, whatever policies you adopt will have a considerable bearing on the future direction we take as a country as we continue to rebuild South Africa into a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society.
Your theme for this Congress states: "Social Justice through Decent Work" and I want to believe that this congress is essentially driven by the need to advance the interests of the South African workers, motivated by the realisation that all the workers of our country deserve better and decent working conditions, and therefore, a better life.
Related to this is the important realisation that all the economically active citizens of our country deserve to be employed so that they can be able to define their future.
This congress is also taking place in a different global economic context, full of challenges which should be analysed to help us come up with sound resolutions.
As we all know, the eruption of the present international credit crunch was occasioned by, among other causes, the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the speculative activities of some of the international investors.
Among other negative effects, this has resulted in the slow economic growth in many countries, including the shrinking of many economies in the developed north.
Unavoidably, the current financial crisis enveloping the global economy impacts on workers all over the world, including you - the South African workers.
As a trade union federation you know that one of the most dreadful consequences on the working people emanating from this downward slide in world economic output is the gloomy prospect of layoffs and job cutbacks.
This prospect has the real threat of inflicting severe damage to our economy, as this would undermine our efforts to create employment and by extension, impact on our war against poverty.
Indeed there is a need to surface this bleak outlook, since there is no knowing whether the ongoing efforts by the developed nations to seek a coordinated response to this unfolding economic crisis will prevent the global economic slide into recession, or, indeed, depression.
Therefore in times like this, we would, as trade unions, government and business, do well to be on guard, to anticipate whatever negative repercussion stemming from this crisis on our own economy, and to think of better ways to address the negative effects.
Given this background, part of the responsibility of the trade union movement is to seek creative ways to protect our workers from the negative impact on employment levels.
Fortunately, the South African banking system has escaped the credit crunch, and this is the reason we have not as yet felt the full impact of this world wide disaster.
This, to our credit, can be ascribed to the policies and regulations government put in place so that our people do not fall victim.
As a result our challenges are largely confined to the economy, which, as part of the global system of trade, has already shown vulnerability to the current financial vicissitudes.
As I said most of the developed countries, and indeed, developing countries represented by the G20 group of nations will be looking for solutions at a World Summit to be convened on 15 November in Washington. This will be done so as to generate a coordinated response to rescue the world economy from further deterioration.
In preparation for this Summit, African Ministers of Finance will meet in Tunis, Tunisia, on 11 - 13 November to focus their energies on identifying effective means to minimise the impact of this crisis on the already struggling people of Africa.
Equally concerned about the interests of the workers in different countries, the international labour movement has not lost sight of these developments.
It follows that our trade union federations in South Africa should, of necessity, join forces to optimally coordinate an effective response to prevent our workers from further sinking into the mire of debt and/or losing their jobs.
One of the lessons for us is to nurture a culture of saving amongst our people.
In particular, we should bear in mind that our economic growth has been largely driven by the middle strata that have, with time, risen from the ranks of the working people.
Such consumption by this category, including small and medium business, is one of the factors driving growth.
Unfortunately, it is this very same category of growing middle strata which has increasing access to credit, which in turn exposes them to vulnerability.
This leads to the logical conclusion that if these strata of consumers, an important component of the economy, neither save up money nor desist from rampant borrowing, we will hurtle towards economic disaster.
Accordingly, I trust that this congress will engage in fruitful deliberations leading to the emergence of resolutions which will seek to soften the blows of these hard times on your general membership.
Once more your theme "Social Justice through Decent Work" provides an ideal conceptual platform for deliberations in the context of the current global financial challenges just outlined.
The notion of social justice is a key element of the prosperous society we all seek to build.
Democracy is a fragile entity. It is a product of society's efforts and needs to be built on social justice, which in turn underpins peace, stability and social cohesion. Especially at the time like this in our country, the key to building democracy is social cohesion.
Implied in this concept is the need for society to access basic social services to enhance the quality of life of its people.
Similarly, decent work essentially means permanent work as opposed to casualisation of labour, which subjects the working people to a life of uncertainty and anxiety.
It encases the idea of good working conditions which ultimately work out to a fulfilling working environment.
Equally, it is common knowledge that the creation of employment is a challenge that must be tackled by government and all important social partners.
We are equally aware that, since the onset of democracy in 1994, our country has been undergoing a difficult process of freeing itself from unemployment and other binding constraints inherited from the past.
One of the requisite support systems for the building of democracy in South Africa is the defeat of the indignities of unemployment, lack of skills, poverty and other related social malaise.
This huge task has to be undertaken against the background of the unrelenting exigencies of a fast globalising world, where shortage of skills to adapt to the new global economy freezes developing countries out of the orbit of development.
In this regard, all stakeholders, from government, civil society and business, must take responsibility to redefine the socio-political landscape of our country.
I am confident that your deliberations and resolutions will be framed by these national imperatives of building a prosperous nation to which we are all striving.
Such prosperity, as we are all aware, is predicated on conscious efforts by all stakeholders in society to deepen the values of non-racialism, non-sexism and social justice, all of which are enshrined in our constitution.
Our society is still plagued by poverty, marginalisation and under-development, factors which militate against efforts to achieve the goals of reconstruction, development and economic growth.
Consequently, all of us should address these conditions, the better to advance towards the betterment of the lives of all South Africans.
By the same token, as a trade union federation you consider it your duty to strive for workers with skills to meet the demands of the modern, sophisticated economic system and be employed in decent jobs.
I am informed that your membership comprises technicians, administrative employees, pilots, flight engineers, general assistants, nurses, doctors, teachers and other skilled and semi -skilled employees from both the public and private sector of the economy.
Clearly you have, in your daily grind, confronted the phenomenon of skills migration, commonly known as ‘brain drain', by which is meant the continuous migration of skilled South Africans to other, preferably better developed countries.
One of the challenges that face this congress is what measures FEDUSA will take to stem the tide of skills migration.
Admittedly, our emergent democracy is fraught with challenges of serious magnitude, most of them with historical provenance.
Some of these challenges include crime, which has been baleful to the lives of many South Africans.
I want to reassure you that government will never let up on winning the way on crime.
However, building a better society has never been a mean feat. Building a society which can attract foreign direct investment, where the economy is growing apace and employment created, is not, and can never be an overnight success.
As government we will continue to seek creative ways, and remain open to suggestions as we work hand in hand with other social partners, to eradicate the scourge of crime from our society.
We cannot unleash our full economic potential without the increasing creation of skills base on which our economy can draw.
And yet the process of expanding the skills capacity gains fuel from the concrete commitment by all sectors of society to contribute to the achievement of this goal.
Despite the current hardships in global financial system and economy, we can remain optimistic as a country knowing that with cooperation and shared common future nothing will thwart the achievement of our vision, if we stand together at this moment, along with sister countries in the region.
Within the context of South-South cooperation, the AU and SADC, we should work in concert to prevent the worse from this financial meltdown
Likewise with the coming FIFA 2010 World Cup, we should join forces with SADC to ensure that this event is energised and successful, so that it positively impacts on our economic growth.
Indeed, with this vision, we can anticipate that tomorrow will be better than today, as today is better than yesterday.
I wish you good deliberations in the fourth FEDUSA National Congress, and I have no doubt that you will adopt resolutions that will not only strengthen FEDUSA but will also help us in the challenges of our time.
Lastly, next year is yet another time for national elections in our country. I trust that we will go back to our constituencies to mobilise South Africans to register to vote to consolidate our fledgling democracy.