COSATU Central Executive Committee, 24-26 May 2010
The Congress of South African Trade Unions held a scheduled meeting of its Central Executive Committee (CEC) on 24-26 May 2010, attended by its National Office Bearers, leaders of all its 21 affiliates and provincial structures. The meeting discussed a wide range of topics, including:
The CEC reaffirmed its total support for the fully justified strikes by SATAWU members against Transnet and Prasa and urged the employer to urgently bring a new offer to the table. The federation will back any solidarity action that SATAWU decides to mobilise.
The meeting rejected with contempt the propaganda from employers and the media which is trying to blackmail workers into abandoning their struggles because of the World Cup.
They demand that the workers should back down and take what Transnet have offered "in the national interest". Yet they never ask the employers to make a better offer "in the national interest". Very few commentators have asked the senior managers who are raking in millions from the economy to cut their salaries "in the national interest".
Shallow-thinking commentators have rushed to condemn workers. They keep mum about the survey of 326 companies by Phillip Theunissen, which showed that despite talk of recession, company CEOs were still able to double their annual earnings last year.
According to this report, the average CEO takes three months to earn R1m or more. CEOs still earned twice as much on average as President Jacob Zuma, three times more than Cabinet ministers and 106 times more than a cleaner in the public service last year.
We hardly hear any of these commentators expressing their disgust that the outgoing Nedbank CEO Tom Boardman earned R43m last year, Standard Bank CEO Jacko Maree R18, 2m and Absa CEO Maria Ramos R13, 5m.
Even in the context of the Transnet strike no one draws a parallel between the 12% demanded by the workers and the Acting CEO's salary. It would take the lowest paid Transnet employee 121 years to earn the annual salary and bonus of the Acting Group CEO who earned over R6, 4 million last year. Of the total bonuses paid last year, 51% of the amount paid out went to 4,500 managers and 49% was shared between 49,000 bargaining unit workers
The CEC applauded the workers for refusing to submit to such blackmail and will support any workers who are forced to take strike action. Soccer is a working-class sport. COSATU members are the most enthusiastic supporters of the World Cup and will be filling the stadiums and fan parks. But this dispute has absolutely nothing to do with the World Cup. It is a strike for a living wage and better benefits, which is entirely in line with COSATU's Living Wage Campaign. COSATU will never accept that workers have to give their employers a free hand to impose whatever they want between 11 June and 11 July 2010 because of the World Cup. If this is accepted it would be tantamount to a State of Emergency during which human and workers' rights could be violated with impunity
The federation also gives its total support to the suffering workers of Aurora Empowerment Systems which is the undisputed and clear front-runner for Worst Employer of 2010 and an example of BEE gone wrong.
The CEC reaffirmed the political perspectives agreed by the November 2009 and March 2010 CECs and the analyses submitted to the recent successful bilateral meetings with the ANC and SACP. Bilaterals have also been held with SASCO and COSAS.
The federation has also welcomed and participated in the YCL's Jobs for Youth Summit, which is an excellent campaign to tackle the real, serious issue of massive youth unemployment.
The federation is encouraged by developments within the Alliance, particularly the ANC Deputy President's closing remarks to the ANC/COSATU bilateral - that there was no conflict between characterising both the ANC and the Alliance as the strategic political centre, as the two were dialectically linked, and that what was needed instead is the clear definition of roles of each component of the Alliance.
COSATU had thought we made a progress on this matter in previous Alliance Summits that the Alliance as a whole was a political centre that must drive the transformation together. If this is rejected by the ANC, COSATU will convene a Special National Congress in April 2011 to decide on the way forward.
COSATU 9th National Congress categorically stated we must sign a Pact that will ensure that COSATU is not used as voting cattle. COSATU will not sign a blank cheque. If the Deputy President's views on the Political Centre are endorsed by the ANC NEC, then COSATU will accept this view and withdraw its plan to hold a Special National Congress.
The federation maintains the view that a new tendency has emerged within the ANC post-Polokwane, but has concluded that it is a mistake to confuse this grouping with a conventional conservative right-wing tendency like the 1996 Class Project, that pursues neoliberal, pro-market and pro-business economic policies for ideological reasons.
The new tendency is a faction without any particular political ideology to deal with the major problems of unemployment, poverty and unemployment. It is rather a small group of people united in a campaign to take control of the movement for their narrow programme of accumulation of personal wealth.
To this faction there are no permanent friends and enemies. President Mbeki was an enemy only because he consistently raised the use of leadership positions for narrow personal accumulation and crass materialism. President Jacob Zuma will also be an enemy if he takes action against the use of our structures for personal accumulation and crass materialism.
The CEC expressed its abomination of the murders of comrades who are whistle-blowers against corrupt tenderpreneurs and demanded that everything be done to find and prosecute the perpetrators. We have noted with extreme anger that assassinations of whistle-blowers and political opponents continues unabated in Mpumalanga, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan and the Free State.
The CEC welcomed the massive support the campaign against corruption has received from South Africans of all walks of life. Indeed the tenderpreneurs are being isolated politically on every front. They know that they can never gain any significant support without concealing their real agenda.
The tendency has been abusing its limited access to the state to launch secret and illegal investigations against all those identified as a problem. They are desperately trying to silence every person they identify as an opponent, be it within the Alliance or among the journalists. The tenderpreneurs' agenda is to rule by fear and blackmail and if there is a need they will not hesitate to murder, as the string of assassinations in Mpumalanga and elsewhere demonstrate.
The CEC rejected the deliberate attempt by the tenderpreneurs to use some in the media to try to smear the COSATU General Secretary by association of being involved in corrupt activities. The CEC rejected suggestions by some that the previous employment of the General Secretary's wife by a firm called SA Quantum created a conflict of interest.
The CEC rejected suggestions that anyone who is in a position of leadership with a partner in business is automatically conflicted and cannot be a spokesperson for the organisation.
The CEC welcomed the resignation of the former COSATU Retirement Funds Coordinator who accepted a massive gift of an A4 Audi which he did not declare to the federation, which is not however necessarily proof of a corrupt relationship or that he received a bribe.
The CEC reaffirmed its determination to fight relentlessly against the cancer of corruption, targeting all corrupt individuals, in the private and public sectors, from all race groups and all political parties including within the trade union movement.
The newspapers continue to carry stories of allegations of corruption against Ministers and we are still to hear the President or Cabinet announcing that these allegations will be subjected to investigation. The CEC expressed regret that the government has not inspired confidence through more decisive action against people perceived to hold power in the government.
Perceptions, as a result of this silence or refusal to act, runs deep in our communities, that government is soft on corruption, in particular if it is committed by members of the cabinet and or senior party leaders or officials.
The CEC discussed the ongoing economic crisis which saw 945 000 jobs lost in 2009 and a further 171 000 in the first quarter of 2010, even though GDP was rising in that quarter.
This has confirmed COSATU's view that in addition to the recession, we have a deep structural economic crisis as a result of the economic fault lines inherited from colonialism and apartheid. The economy remains over-dependent on the export of raw materials which are then beneficiated overseas and do not create enough decent jobs in South Africa.
This requires a fundamental shift in our economic growth path towards an economy based on manufacturing industry, which will create decent, sustainable jobs. We are pleased that a significant number of manufacturing companies and associations have joined the three trade union federations in a joint campaign to promote such a new economic growth path.
Unions and a growing number of manufacturers agree that there is a need to implement the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP2) with utmost urgency. There is also a need to change macroeconomic policies from the current conservative approach based on rigid ‘inflation-targeting', which threatens to sabotage the progressive strategies such as IPAP2.
COSATU has proposed to the DTI that they convene national and sectoral workshops with the unions to hammer out strategies to drive the IPAP2 as speedily and effectively as possible. We have also urged the minister to appoint researchers, and second them to key trade unions to develop capacity and provide the information required for implementing the plan.
The CEC adopted a COSATU policy document on a new Economic Growth path, which outlines an overarching developmental plan to transform the economy. COSATU affiliates will submit final comments and the document will be released on Wednesday 16 June, Youth Day. The document is released during the country's celebration of the contributions of the youth to draw attention to what we have said - that unemployment ravages the youth more than any other grouping in our country.
Living wage conference
The CEC has noted the alarming statistics on the levels of inequality in South Africa. COSATU said in 2004 that white monopoly capital has been the main economic beneficiaries of the first ten years of democracy, and that the next ten years would have to be a decade for the workers and the poor. Six years later, more than half way through that decade, the situation is virtually unchanged
The Gini coefficient, which measures inequality, has risen from 6.4% to 6.9% in a period of ten years, making South Africa the most unequal society in the world. 58% of African households live in poverty. The 2005/6 National Income and Expenditure Survey found that the average income for the top 10% of households was 32 times that of the bottom 50%. The richest tenth enjoyed well over half of all household income.
The 2008 Quarterly Labour Force Survey found that one in seven non-agricultural formal employees and two thirds of domestic, informal and farm workers earned under R1000. Three quarters of security guards got less than R2500 a month - and many risked their lives for people who earned far more.
Assets are even more unequal than pay. In 2005/6, a household in the richest decile earned 94 times as much from investments as one in the poorest 60%. The richest 10% of households got three quarters of their income from capital, compared to under 1% for the poorest. The richest 10% of households got almost two thirds of income from these assets, while the poorest 60% received 1%.
The same pattern emerges within companies. As we noted above, the Acting CEO of Transnet receives 121 times the income of the lowest paid Transnet worker. The CEO of Nedbank received R43 million in 2009, nearly 20 times the salary of the President of South Africa.
The inequality also still has a strong racial dimension. Although inequality has grown within racial groups - and there are whites living in poverty and black millionaires - on average white workers earn 8 times as much as black workers in manufacturing industry. An average African man earns in the region of R2 400 per month, whilst an average white man earns around R19 000. The racial income gap is therefore roughly R16 800 among males.
Most white women earn in the region of R9 600 per month, whereas most African women earn R1 200 per month. The racial income gap in monthly incomes among women is therefore R8 400. On average, white women also earn eight times more than their African counterparts.
The Employment Equity Act is thus failing abysmally to transform the discrimination inherited from apartheid. In the private sector most employers do not even submit reports and those that are submitted reveal that in the private sector, top management is 60% white male, 14% white female, 9% African male and 4% African female.
Coloured and Indian males account for an average of 4%, whilst females account for an average of 1.4% of top management in the country. In other words 74% of top management of the South African economy is drawn from 12% of the population.
Racial inequalities are carried through into all areas of life. Education, healthcare, housing and land reform all reflect huge and growing unequal standards of service provision, with world-class standards for a small, mainly white minority and appalling standards for the mainly black majority.
Workers and the poor are increasingly asking whether anything has changed in 16 years. There is a growing danger that they will turn to demagogues who will put the blame for the failure to solve their fundamental problems on the ‘left' ANC government.
In a bid to tackle this problem, the CEC agreed to convene a major Living Wage Conference (LWC) early in 2011. As a build-up to this conference we are conducting extensive research into the levels of wages and inequalities in every sector, both private and public. We shall also look at benefits like provident funds, medical aids, and transport and housing allowances.
It will also monitor the implementation of the Employment Equity, Skills Development and Occupational Health and Safety Acts. Far too many workers are selling the limbs and lives as well as their labour power to unscrupulous employers.
Thousands of workers are still being denied the opportunities to upgrade their skills, and climb the ladder to a better standard of living.
The LWC will also examine the extent to which workers are covered by bargaining councils and sectoral determinations. It will look at HIV AIDS prevalence in every sector of the economy and determine if companies have workplace plans.
Having discussed all this information, the conference will formulate a policy for wage negotiations and mobilise workers in a new, mother-of-all Living Wage Campaigns to raise workers' living standards and cut the wealth gap.
This campaign will be linked to the other battles we are waging to make our education system and schools work for the working class and the poor, a campaign against the fault lines in health including fighting for the speedy introduction of the National Health Insurance, and in the process take up campaigns on all the five priorities of the ANC.
State of the affiliates
The CEC received a report of a comprehensive survey of COSATU's 21 affiliated unions. We are very pleased to announce that the total membership has now risen to 2 022 133, an 18 704 increase (0.9%) from September 2009 to April 2010.
This is a truly remarkable achievement given that the country is still emerging from a deep economic recession and that around a million jobs disappeared between January 2009 and April 2010.
The NUM achieved the biggest growth (15 000) and POPCRU the biggest percentage growth (9.3%). Others which have grown are NEHAWU, FAWU, NUMSA, SADTU, CEPPWAWU, SASFU and PAWUSA. The biggest loser was SACTWU, which lost 20 975 members as a result of the massive number of retrenchments in the clothing and textile industry.
The figures, though good, must not lead to complacency. The growth of casualisation has left thousands of workers unorganised and desperately in need of unions to protect them from super-exploitation. So there is still a pressing need to step up the recruitment campaign, especially among women and youth, where both membership and involvement in leadership is lagging far behind where it should be.
Another positive development is the increase in most unions of education and training, with SACTWU, NUMSA, NUM and NEHAWU leading the way.
Eskom tariff increases Section 77
On 1st April 2010 the General Secretary hand-delivered the Section 77 notice to Nedlac on high electricity tariffs, which are impacting negatively on the economy, the workers and the poor. NACTU and FEDUSA have since joined the COSATU action.
The respondents in the Section 77 are the dti, Department of Energy, Department of Economic Development, Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Treasury, Department of Public Enterprises, Eskom, Nersa, Busa, SACCI and Business Leadership SA.
After numerous postponements of meetings to consider the Section 77 Notice due to the unavailability of some of the respondents, the first meeting sat on 25th May 2010 at which the respondents claimed, incredibly, that they did not have a mandate, but committed to respond in writing to all issues raised in the Section 77 before 14th June 2010, which is the date of the next meeting. If no progress is made at that meeting, COSATU will mobilise its members for a massive strike as soon as Nedlac declares that the matter has been duly considered.
COSATU, NACTU and FEDUSA met with the ANC ETC to discuss all matters related to the energy demands of our country. We are taking forward these discussions and we do recognise that if a solution is found in this process it will mean there is no more a need to engage in the legal process Nedlac is also driving in response to the Section 77 notices of the three federations.
The CEC noted the work of the new SABC Board and is encouraged by its commitment to good governance and acting without fear or favour. It welcomed the decision by the Board to rescind the unprocedural ‘appointment' of Phil Molefe as SABC Head of News by the Board Chairperson, Ben Ngubane, and CEO Solly Mokoetle. The meeting called upon the Board to continue with the appointment of a new Head of News without delay and for Ngubane to choose to resign if he continues to refuse to subject his views to the majority in the Board.
South Africa's health system is characterised by glaring inequalities in health. Despite major achievements made in the health sector post-1994, many challenges remain. The apartheid legacy has been reproduced in various ways resulting in worsening life expectancy and mortality rates and racial and geographic inequalities.
At the core of these problems is a two-tier health system. The public health system which although catering for the majority of the predominantly black and working class population, remains starved of funding and resources. The profit-driven private health sector which caters for a mostly white and wealthy population continues to claim most of the healthcare resources, including the majority of health care professionals. This is why the need for a National Health Insurance cannot be overemphasised.
The CEC expressed concern at the deafening silence on the implementation of the National Health Insurance Scheme and increased reference to Public Private Partnerships, particularly from the Presidency, Treasury and the Health Ministry.
PPPs are paraded as panaceas to our challenges in the health sector. Whilst we are not opposed to the private sector contributing resources to the health system, we are worried that private partnerships have historically proven disastrous when it comes to the management and operation of facilities.
Our memory of the disastrous impact of privatisation of services on the quality of jobs is still fresh. We will oppose any attempts to reintroduce the privatisation of health services via the backdoor and step up the mobilisation of communities behind the NHI. Social mobilisation and activism behind health will serve as a buffer against right-wing attempts to give a neoliberal flavour to the NHI.
The deterioration of the health sector is compounded by the crisis of the HIV and Aids pandemic, which results in 1000 AIDs-related deaths per day in South Africa.
At least 70% of the caseload in the public health system is now taken up by HIV/AIDS cases, crowding out the capacity to treat other medical conditions. Moreover, while we seem unable to treat more than half the 800,000 needing anti-retroviral treatment, that number is going to rise to 5,5 million within five years (these are people already HIV infected who will reach full-blown AIDS).
The CEC commended the sterling work done by the government with regard to the newly launched HCT campaign aiming to test 15 million South Africans by June 2011. This campaign marks an opportune moment to improve the prevention and treatment of HIV/Aids.
COSATU will undertake the following as part of the HCT campaign:
· Play our role in this campaign by ensuring that we encourage all our members to undergo voluntary HIV testing and counselling in their workplaces by June 2011 and that all workplaces have an HIV/Aids policy. We aim to encourage at least half of our members to test during this period. We have also developed comprehensive implementation frameworks to this effect.
· Advocate for reliable and regular access to anti-retroviral for the HIV positive
· Encourage pregnant women to undergo voluntary testing as part of increasing the effectiveness of the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT)
· Campaign for increased production and distribution of female condoms as part of mitigating the high HIV/Aids prevalence amongst women.
· Put pressure for the production of generic medicines in our country. Further we shall campaign to put pressure on pharmaceutical companies to ensure that these generic medicines together will all medicines are accessible to the poor in terms of prices.
The struggle against HIV/Aids requires a dedication to the mobilisation of society in its entirety against the pandemic.
The CEC received an input from the Minister of Labour, Comrade Membathisi Mdladlana. We are pleased that there is convergence on a number of areas. This includes agreeing that the notion that South Africa's labour market is too rigid is factually inaccurate. Further, the Minister reaffirmed COSATU's view, and the ANC's election manifesto statement, that decent work is central to the creation of sustainable livelihoods and as such must be the cornerstone of all our efforts.
COSATU is also pleased that the Minister provided the CEC with a briefing about the processes towards the amendment of various labour legislations, in particular to address the problem of labour brokering. We will await these outcomes in September 2010 with anticipation.
COSATU will also be actively campaigning on the following areas:
· Ensure that the important and historic holidays are declared non-trading public holidays. These include, but are not limited to, 21 March 27 April, 1 May, 16 June and 9 August
· The banning of Labour broking, as this amounts to human trafficking and modern slavery
· The inclusion of the right to work in the Constitution, which will go a long way in strengthening our fight for decent work.
· Ensuring that the campaign for decent work is not only limited to a fight against labour brokers but extends to all non-standard forms of employment like casualisation, part-time work and outsourcing;
· Intensifying the organisation of workers employed in atypical forms of work. We will participate effectively in the forthcoming farm workers summit.
· Campaigning for fixed-term and short-term workers to be covered by collective agreements
We reiterate that we shall call a general strike to coincide with the international day on decent work - 7 October - if our demands on labour brokering are not met.
Local government elections
The CEC reaffirmed its commitment to work tirelessly for an ANC victory in the local elections in 2011, but stressed again the necessity for the unions to get more involved in their local community struggles.
Superior Courts Bill
The Superior Courts Bill seeks to ‘rationalise' the various court systems into a single system, as required by the Constitution and end the fragmentation of the general courts. COSATU is however concerned at the folding of the specialist labour courts into the ordinary High Courts. We believe they should be retained.
After discussion in Nedlac in 2003, COSATU reluctantly agreed to a compromise under which specialist labour elements would be provided for within the general system. But this compromise was rejected in Parliament and we have reverted to our original demand for the separate labour courts to be retained.
The latest version of the Bill still proposes to fold the specialist labour courts into the High Courts and the labour Court of Appeal into the Supreme Court of Appeal, but with a ‘Labour Matters Special Division'.
Our concerns are:
1. Under the new bill judges must be first appointed to a General Division of the High Court, based on having general expertise and experience. This will not involve NEDLAC. After appointment those judges wanting to deal with labour matters will be designated by the Chief Justice if s/he is satisfied that the judge has either completed a labour training course or has labour law expertise or experience.
2. Most labour specialists however do not have general expertise/experience, and would therefore be blocked at the very first stage from being appointed to the General Division. In the long run this will translate into generalist judges being included on the labour list on the basis of so-called training, despite having little or no labour law experience. The legal representatives handling labour matters are likely to be more experienced (and therefore more competent) than the judges they appear before. Training is no substitute for experience, which increases both expertise and sensitivity in labour cases.
3. The Bill proposes to dismantle the current Labour Court Rules Board, which will become merely a subcommittee making recommendations to a general Rules Board. Simplified and less formalistic process may be lost with serious implications for accessibility.
4. The ordinary High Courts are excessively proceduralised, with rules even allowing judges to adjourn cases because participants are not formally dressed. This could create difficulties for union officials/ office bearers representing workers and could even mean increased costs where hearings are unnecessarily adjourned.
5. The Bill provides for an interim appeal from single judge's decision to a court with more than one judge and a further appeal against this decision to the Supreme Court of Appeal. This allows employers to excessive drag a process out and increase costs, which would discourage unions and workers from pursuing a case.
6. Currently there is significant co-ordination between the processes of the CCMA, bargaining councils and the labour courts, which can certify CCMA awards as an order of the court, so that these may be enforced, which ordinary High Courts cannot do. The Bill is silent as to how co-ordination will be undertaken with the CCMA.
The CEC accepted approved the federation's audited financial statements and were pleased to see that our finances are extremely healthy.
On 4 December 2010, COSATU will be celebrating its 25th anniversary. The main event is planned for Ekurhuleni, following build-up events in every province. We shall be commemorating the lives of our founders and inviting all those leaders who have moved into other areas of society to attend. But it will also be a time for fun and relaxation for workers and their families.
The CEC called upon all its members to participate fully in the activities planned to commemorate Nelson Mandela Day on 18 July 2010
Finally the CEC sent a message of support to the greatly improving Bafana Bafana, and for a successful World Cup. This historic event will be a milestone in our country's history and we urge all our members and all South Africans to fill the stadiums and flood the fan parks, so that they can say: "I was there".
 See the Employment Equity Report (2008/2009).
Statement issued by Patrick Craven, Congress of South African Trade Unions national spokesperson, May 27 2010
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