Workers must fight for National Minimum Wage - COSATU CEC

Federation says public service wage bill shouldn't be used as an excuse of all ills facing our economy

COSATU CEC, 22-24 February 2016

The Congress of South African Trade Unions held a planned meeting of its Central Executive Committee from 22-24 February 2016, attended by all the national office bearers, and representatives of the 18 affiliated unions and nine provincial structures. The meeting discussed and resolved on the following issues:

International Balance of Forces

The CEC took place in the context in which the balance of class forces internationally remains decisively in favour of monopoly capital and imperialism. We have emerged from the 12th National Congress aware thatglobal capitalism persists and the whole world is still afflicted by imperialist aggression and terrorist atrocities. The Global Economic crisis continues to deepen and capital continues with its manoeuvres to shift the burden of the crisis to the working class.

According to the ILO report, the economic weakening has caused a further increase in global unemployment. In 2015, the number of unemployed people reached 197.1 million – approaching 1 million more than in the previous year and over 27 million higher than pre-crisis levels. This increase in the number of jobseekers in 2015 occurred mainly in emerging and developing countries. In most developed economies, 2015 was marked by better than anticipated job growth, especially in the United States and some Central and Northern European countries.

The incidence of vulnerable employment is growing and it now accounts for 1.5 billion people, or over 46 per cent of total employment. In both Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, over 70 per cent of workers are in vulnerable employment.

Women face a 25 to 35 per cent higher risk of being in vulnerable employment than men in certain countries in Northern Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab States.

Unity and Cohesion

The meeting concluded that these conditions require that the federation remain focused on consolidating its unity. The CEC made it clear that only a united COSATU can influence or shape the future of the workers in our country and strengthen the revolutionary international working class movement. The current offensive directed at the workers and the trade union movement calls on the federation to carry the heavy responsibility of building working class power in the work place, communities and all other strategic centres of power.

The CEC said that the unity of the federation starts with the unity within and amongst our affiliates. They should close ranks and differentiate between our allies and enemies even if our enemies are hidden behind left rhetoric, slogans, colours and banners. We call on our members to close ranks against all those, who want to infiltrate and divide our affiliates and the federation for their narrow political ends.

Rebuilding COSATU –Going Back to Basics

The meeting resolved to prioritise work place programmes with dates for workplace visits ,as part of heightening our Back to Basics programme. We shall listen to members and translate their concerns into programmes, directed at employers. We want members to report organisers and leaders, who are corrupt, and we want all those ,who are not doing their work of servicing members to be removed from our unions.

All the foreign tendencies that have become rife in the period of our internal rupture will have to be confronted and dealt with. Without tackling these tendencies head-on and implementing the declaration of the 12th Congress on this, rebuilding COSATU would remain a pipedream.

Solidarity among affiliates

The federation will be launching its recruitment programme that is targeted at organising the unorganised workers, and ensuring that our unions in all sectors recruit and service workers.

Going forward, all affiliates are expected to practice the principle of solidarity. They must ensure that they support each other’s struggles. This will include joint recruitment programmes. The principle of an injury to one is an injury to all ,should be given its real meaning through actions. The unity and cohesion of the federation is dependent on the solidarity of its members and also with other workers in general. Our real enemies, monopoly capital are threatened by our unity and we need to cherish and defend it.

The NDR and the role of COSATU

We will not engage in the 2017 debate now because it is still too early. It is both a divisive and a distracting debate that will not help the working class to tackle the priority issues confronting it. Our immediate task is to defend the progressive resolutions adopted by both the ANC 52nd and 53rd National Conferences and to embark on a series of campaigns to ensure their immediate and effective implementation.

The federation shall contest the content of the radical second phase both on its class content and based on the character and responsibility of collective leadership. We are however calling on the current ANC leadership to unite the movement and be decisive in dealing with divisive characters and incidences reported to them. 

Threats facing the NDR- Regime Change Agenda

The CEC agreed unanimously that our democracy was born in chains. Since the 1994 historical breakthrough, our revolution has faced counterrevolution by imperialist forces and interference and blackmail by monopoly capital. 

The CEC also agreed that part of the threat to our revolution is not only from outside but from those deployed in the states, who act arrogantly to undermine the needs of the people. This includes the corrupt elements and those, who choose to ignore or deliberately misinterpret the policies of the movement, when implementing them.

We will defend our revolution from imperialist attacks that are meant to undermine its unity and are aimed at derailing it. We will do so not by becoming uncritical supporters of our alliance partners and government leadership. We shall at all times engage strategically with our alliance partners in particular the ANC , to ensure that it builds capacity and has the necessary confidence to act decisively and confidently to lead a radical National Democratic Revolution

At the same time, when the leadership refuses to be decisive, we shall, in a principled fashion, speak out and embark on campaigns to ensure that the revolution stays on track.

Reconfiguration of the Alliance into a fighting Alliance

The meeting reiterated that the Alliance is constituted by equal partners, where the ANC is at the head of the Alliance. The meeting also reiterated our conviction that the Alliance remains the only vehicle available to advance a second more radical phase of the National Democratic Revolution. We shall ceaselessly defend the unity of the alliance and ensure that its programmes are taken forward.

The task is to build a fighting alliance beyond election period. The Alliance should continuously remain at the centre of planning and driving the revolution. The role of the Alliance Political Coucil and the Alliance Secretariat must be to pull the revolutionary forces together and ensure implementation of the Alliance Programmes, including ensuring that where necessary such programmes translate into implementable government programme.

We are clear that merely calling and lobbying for the reconfiguration of the Alliance or that the Alliance be a strategic centre of power is not enough. This is a battle we will have to win on the ground through asserting our organisational presence, through visible campaigns in the workplace and in communities. It is a battle we will win through ensuring ideological clarity and by remaining consistent and principled in everything we do.

COSATU’s Mid-term strategic framework

The CEC kick-started the work given by the 12th National Congress to develop COSATU’s vision beyond 2015 by establishing a task team which will take forward this work and periodically report to the CEC. The first draft of such a plan will be presented to the Central Committee next year. The task shall also include deriving lessons from the implementation of the 2015 Plan and the organisational redesign which will be aligned to the mid- term vision.

SACP –COSATU Bilateral

The SACP and COSATU held a bilateral on the 19th February 2016 to discuss a number of political and socio-economic issues facing the working class. Our two formations committed to fearlessly exposing those associated with state capture, through parasitism within our movement structures. Noting that, there is a recent offensive directed at the workers and the working class, we agreed on the need to close the ranks between our two formations, and also intensify our joint political, ideological and mass campaigning work.

The CEC endorsed the proposal to work with the SACP to campaign around the transformation of the financial sector and link this to the struggle for a comprehensive social security system. There is widespread abuse of garnishee orders, for garnishees and of housing evictions and these affect workers negatively. The struggle for a fully transformed, people-centred financial sector and the review of the appropriate approach to provident fund reform, are both inextricably linked to the need for a comprehensive social security system that responds to the reality of our situation. The bilateral reaffirmed that both the SACP and COSATU will be actively supporting the ANC in the forthcoming local government elections.

It is critical that both the neo-liberal centre-right DA and the dangerous, demagogic EFF are roundly defeated. In expressing our support for the ANC, our two formations warned however that we will not be able to support candidates thrust upon local communities through perverted, undemocratic processes that are in flagrant defiance of the ANC’s own clear nominations procedures.

2016 Local government Elections

The meeting agreed that the municipal elections campaign must be an integral part of our 2016 programme of action. We shall campaign for the ANC as mandated by the 12th National Congress and ensure that it gets a decisive election victory. We shall participate in the drafting of the election manifesto in the coming local government elections.

We also insist that communities be given a choice to elect their candidates without undue interference. The federation wants to make it clear that, we will also not support candidates, who have not been endorsed by communities, including those implicated in corruption and criminal activities. We must however be vigilant against agent provocateurs, who come from the opposition parties to infiltrate community meetings and create chaos exploiting and open and democratic processes of the ANC on the selection of candidates.

Campaign against free market foundation

The CEC characterised the Free Market Foundation’s constitutional challenge of the extension of bargaining council agreements to non-parties as nothing but a rightwing agenda to weaken and destroy labour laws. The invisible neoliberal funders of the FMF are both ahistorical and reactionary; in that they have ignored our unfortunate history of exploitation and unequal wages and they also want to keep the black working class majority at the bottom end of the economic pyramid.

The weakening of the current bargaining process will hand over the defenceless workers to marauding employers for exploitation. We are going to mobilise and defeat this offensive and we are ready to fight back to protect the workers. What South Africa needs is to strengthen collective bargaining and develop policies and a regulatory framework to promote wage equity, and aligns centralised bargaining with industrial and economic development strategies.

Threats on the Right to strike

We are incensed by the Minister of Labour Mildred Olifant’s repeated attempts to threaten the workers right to strike. The minister has been trying to resuscitate the issue of strike balloting that was defeated by the unions two years ago, during the LRA amendments. It is clear that the minister and her department want to go it alone and unilaterally impose the strike balloting issue under threat of trade union deregistration.

We are ready to defend our hard-won rights and no amount of bullying and intimidation will scare us. We shall fiercely defend these rights because we remember the struggles that went into gaining them. They were won in struggles; they were not given to workers in boardrooms on a silver platter. 

12th National Congress Campaigns

The CEC as mandated by our last congress concluded that the following campaigns will be rolled out this year:

 Recruitment and service campaign.

 Provident fund/ social security reform

 Legislated minimum wage/living wage campaign

 Banning labour brokers


 Public transport

 Opposition to e-tolling

 Anti-corruption campaign



The Mayday workers celebration will be held under the theme; “Celebrating 30 Years and defending Collective Bargaining, Workers Jobs and Rights”. The meeting decided that this year’s celebrations be taken back to places, where workers reside, in line with our resolution to go back to basics and closing the social distance. The celebrations will take place in townships and localities and not in stadiums, but in open spaces closer to workers. We shall also ensure that the Mayday holiday becomes a non trading day, so as to allow workers to attend especially those, working on farms and other vulnerable sectors.

Nationwide Retrenchments

The CEC expressed concern that government was continuing with the usual economic indecisiveness in the face of massive retrenchments that are affecting all sectors of the economy. Capitalism is heightening its offensive by shifting the burden of the economic crisis to the working class. The recent business offensive has included cuts in real wages; intensification of work and associated retrenchments; deregulation and increase in working hours; deregulation of labour relations; widespread casual labour, particularly among the women and young workers. We have seen the over-exploitation of migrant workers; appropriation of labour productivity gains by capital; cuts in pensions and retirement benefits; increase in unemployment rates; regression of social and labour rights; and the denial of the right to bargain collectively and to strike.

We are disconcerted that, while millions of workers are losing millions of jobs; government is refusing to respond to COSATU’s call for a jobs summit. Government during SONA only went into a bilateral with big business to try and pacify the very same people, who are the causes of this economic calamity through their investment strike.

They also focused on the NDP, but did not address problems we raised about the labour and economic chapters of the document. There was no clear plan to address the 34% unemployment, labour brokering, and outsourcing and there was no substantive content on the national minimum wage. Strikes by workers were condemned but the underlying issues causing strikes to go on forever or turn violent were not addressed. We reiterate our demand for a review of the macroeconomic policies of the NDP that are being implemented by our government.

Developmental state

That a state is developmental cannot be legislated, it depends on what the state does and how it does it. In this context the Freedom Charter propagates for the state ownership of the commanding heights of the economy and control of the private sector for the benefit of the people We reiterate our call for an interventionist, activist, socialist-oriented developmental state whose role in the economy is aimed at bringing to the mainstream economy those, who were isolated from participating in it by the apartheid policies.

Government’s commitment and acceptance of the need for fundamental radical economic transformation, as the only way to address unemployment, and massive levels of poverty and inequality is a step in the right direction ,but the economic targets set out in the National Development Plan, are neither appropriate nor realistic.

The CEC calls on government to do a lot more to support local industrialisation and manufacturing including the use of incentives to grow the textile, leather, automotive sector industries. We also need promote investment in rural areas and townships economy. 

Land and Agrarian Reform and Food Security

We reaffirm our historic demands for more effective land redistribution, and we commend the National Assembly for passing the new Expropriation Bill, that will allow government to expropriate property for public purpose and also speed up land reform. We call on the National Council of Provinces to support the bill and call on the president to sign it into law. COSATU however urges government to amend the bill to prohibit any compensation of individuals, whose property was acquired during apartheid and colonial forced removals. 

We insist that the land redistributed must be effectively utilised, so that we can improve food security in our country whilst addressing poverty of our people in particular in the rural areas. We demand that more municipalities intervene in the drought stricken areas by helping subsistence farmers to recover from drought. We also support the government’s imposition of a moratorium on foreign landownership.

On Education, Skills Development and Training

The CEC appreciated the role played by the Minister of Higher Education and Training in dealing with the issues raised by students at the higher education level. We support and welcome the commission set up by the president to look into modalities of providing free education in the higher education sector.

We also call on government to widen up the scope of, who qualifies for NSFAS, so as to accommodate the so called “missing middle” who are excluded and are mostly kids of our members. We support SASCO’s campaign for free education but we denounce violence and lawlessness during protests. We also demand that in all of this, we do not expect Seta funding to be compromised

The federation supports and welcomes the Government’s Higher Education Amendment Bill and is urging Parliament to pass it as a matter of priority. The federation wants the bill to be further strengthened, to ensure outsourcing and labour broking are banned in all public universities and colleges.

We also want the bill to ensure that university funds can only be invested in local companies that create and protect local jobs and only in companies that are not involved with labour broking, outsourcing. We want universities and colleges to account to Parliament on an annual basis and also that the criterion for nominations to university councils be tightened to ensure that candidates with questionable records are not appointed.

SASCO led struggles in campuses

The CEC saluted SASCO for leading the student struggles in universities against fee hikes and for free education, including the in-sourcing campaign. The federations will continue to interact and work closely with SASCO, to make sure that the struggles of the working class students take precedence and their voices are heard. The federation held a bilateral with SASCO and discussed ways of cooperation ;and of building and an effective Education Alliance that will be responsive to the needs of workers and working class students. We call on all our affiliates to ensure that they give tangible material support to SASCO, so that they are able to lead these important struggles.


The CEC welcome the Public Protector report on the South African Post Office and we call for its recommendations to be fully implemented, and call for those found to be responsible for any nefarious activities to be held accountable. COSATU is concerned though that it took her five years to release the report ;and our affiliate the Communications Workers Union {CWU} lost some of its members, who were dismissed for demanding this report. Some workers had their salaries cut whilst waiting for the report to be released.

We are disturbed to hear that labour broking firms earned an astronomical amount of more than R2, 1 billion between 2002 and 2012 at the South African Post Office. This happens at a time, when workers were not getting their full salaries. This obscene wastage and looting of taxpayers’ money validates COSATU’s position, that labour brokering and outsourcing are twin evils that should be banned. We call on government to assist the Post Office to implement its turnaround strategy and also ensure that the Post Bank is reoriented towards being a state bank, as per ANC resolutions.

Provident Fund reform

The CEC viewed the postponement of the implementation of the Tax Law Amendment Act as representing first signs of victory for the workers. Our demands remain the following:

a) We reject the piecemeal approach to retirement reforms.

b) We demand the total scrapping of all aspects of annuitisation so that we can start negotiations on a clean slate and the introduction of a Comprehensive Social Security and Retirement Reform paper at NEDLAC.

c) Retirement Funds are a differed wage of workers. Neither government nor employers have any business of interfering with them. 

d) We reject the notion that workers, black workers in particular can’t manage their financial affairs. This is not only an insult to workers but smacks of racism. We established provident funds precisely to cater for our retirement.

After engaging with the latest developments and considering the reopening of the consultation process that may result in further amendments ,the CEC decided that the planned national strike on the 1st of March should not go ahead. The federation will not demobilise though but shall deepen its mobilisation until all workers demands are met. We shall continue to monitor the progress of the negotiations and will keep having mobilisation activities, including pickets, demonstrations, shop steward councils to update workers on any new developments.

We will remain vigilant and on alert in case governments fails to honour its commitments or shows signs of negotiating in bad faith. We reiterate our call for workers not to resign but to remain vigilant and combat ready in case government fails fulfil its promises and also does not scrap the aspects of the law that talks to annuitisation.

We have also noted that the biggest protestors after the decision to postpone the implementation was taken were the Democratic Alliance and its handler’s monopoly capital. Workers should be clear that voting for the DA and other political parties will be tantamount to handing their money to greedy corporate vultures.

We are worried that over R 92 billion of worker’s money is sitting in several provident funds and has not been claimed and we believe these provident funds are deliberately failing to trace the beneficiaries because they want to benefit from the accumulative interests. We call on them to speed up the process of tracing the beneficiaries of this money, working with the department of Home Affairs.

We also demand that workers should be involved in how their retirement’s savings are invested. We shall fight for our monies to be invested in job intensive sectors and for the benefit of the working class.

Mining retrenchments

We are deeply concerned by the ongoing job losses in the mining industry. We believe that the time has arrived to restructure the mining industry and the national economy at large. Motivated by their greed, mine bosses, have dragged the mining industry down the drain because of mismanagement, short-sightedness and narrow focus on their profits. The current crisis in the mining sector is a crisis of profits by the mining companies.

We cannot continue to allow the rapacious mining companies to use our natural resources and our country as a drive-thru, where they make an order and leave with no care for the consequences of their actions. Anglo American Mining should not be allowed to abandon the mines that have funded the company’s growth without taking responsibility of the surrounding communities and the workers.

They have shown that they do not value the lives of black workers and black people in general. They are leaving behind a trail of poverty, illnesses and environmental damage. They must be forced to retrain their workers and invest in the communities, where they are closing down mines.

COSATU demands that government forces the mining industry to ensure that there is an industry wide training and retraining scheme that will help miners to posses’ useful skills rather than simply being dumped in the unemployment line. Government should also take 50% ownership of all mining companies in the country through a state mining company.

Lilly Mine accident

The CEC conveys its message of support to the families of the miners, who are still trapped at the Lily Mine in Mpumalanga. We insist that the Lilly mine management should take full responsibility for the mine accident that happened in Mpumalanga. They have cynically tried to camouflage their carelessness using public relations stunts that have seen the leadership of COSATU stopped from visiting the mine. Government should ensure that they do not get away with this irresponsible behavior. The federation will visit Lilly Mine as mandated by the Central Executive Committee meeting to meet with the families of the trapped miners.

Umbhaba Farm dismissals

We express our profound indignation for the racist attitudes by a Mpumalanga farmer, who arrogantly dismissed more than three hundred (300) farm workers who embarked on protected strike demanding the recognition of the union of their issue by calling for a boycott of the bananas and all other affiliates will participate in a provincial strike to demand the reinstatement of these workers.

The federation also will be mobilising workers and surrounding communities for this upcoming strike and boycott. No employer shall be allowed to ignore and violate the prescripts of the Labour Relations Act (LRA). Workers have a right to their basic right to freedom of choice and association and we shall ensure that they exercise them without fear of victimisation.


The CEC denounced the victimization of workers by ENCA for demanding to join a union. The Constitution of this country allows all workers to join a union of their choice. COSATU calls on the ENCA to stop these reactionary anti-worker tendencies. We shall uncompromisingly fight this bullying and intimidation of workers by people, who never forget to remind all of us that they are democrats and constitutionalists.

The meeting noted that ENCA was formed after the 1994 democratic breakthrough and theirs is not an issue of transformation but it’s reflective of the ideological orientation of the owners and managers. They are anti-worker and anti union and treat profits as a priority.

COSATU will work with its affiliate CWU, to organize workers at ENCA in line with our 12th congress resolution, to organize the unorganized. We will continue to explore innovative and creative methods to recruit and retain young workers as part of building the organisation. We call on ENCA workers to join CWU in their numbers and also unite and speak out against management bullying.

National Minimum Wage

The meeting resolved that workers should be ready to fight and campaign for the implementation of a meaningful National Minimum Wage because it will not be handed to us. We want to make it clear to big business that we are not going to have endless consultations and they should commit to a tight deadline for finalisation of the National Minimum Wage. We call for the process of drafting a National Minimum Wage Act to begin.

The CEC’s message to big business is that the National Minimum Wage will go ahead, with or without their co-operation and their obstructionism and resistance will crumble under mass mobilisation. We also call on government to stop playing spectator and start providing leadership role on this front. We have waited for more than 60 years for the national minimum wage as promised by the Freedom Charter. We are not prepared to celebrate any anniversary of the freedom charter without a national minimum wage.

NHI and Healthcare reform

We welcome the fact the government’s release of the long-awaited NHI White Paper. This is a strategic and central intervention that should help define the second radical phase of our national democratic revolution. The establishment of a single payer NHI Fund is what we have been calling for, and it will effectively remove the role of profit-driven medical aid administrations in the system, thereby generating savings from the current wasteful and largely corrupt medical aid industry.

With regard to the key question of the health financing system, we demand the pooling of all existing health insurance and other funds into a single, publicly managed and administered NHI Fund, to ensure social solidarity from the healthy to the sick and the rich to the poor, the debate is now closed. The rolling out of the NHI should be the sole responsibility of the state with no tenders and its financing should not be through private medical aid schemes.

Government should act decisively to regulate the greedy private healthcare industry that has been victimising South Africans through exorbitant prices. Their unashamed looting should be stopped and their prices should be tightly regulated. The meeting condemned the Free Market Foundation, Economist, Mr Loane Sharpe for attacking the NHI. He is one of the rented so called economic commentators, who will say and do anything for his supper. 

Budget Statement for 2016/2017 

We have noted government’s 2016/17 budget and have full appreciation of the difficult economic and expenditure constraints that government is facing. We are clear that there are no easy solutions and as constructive partners, we are keen to see our government succeed. Overall the budget is reflective of the state of our economy and we feel that minister did a commendable balancing act and resisted the calls for extreme voluntary austerity measures by the neoliberal proponents, who were saying that he must handover everything to them and punish the weak and the poor for our economic stagnation. 

We applaud government for not increasing VAT despite intense pressure from the rating agencies and various right wing commentators to do so ,but we are worried that the Minister of Finance was silent on the Presidential Review Commission’s call for partial nationalisation of State Owned Enterprises { SOE’s}. We will engage government on this because we cannot allow strategic SOEs like Eskom, Transnet, Telkom and the Post Office to be privatised. They have key developmental mandates to deliver upon which will be discarded if they are to be privatised.

We reiterate our position that it is misguided for government to attack public servants and keep using the public service wage bill as an excuse of all the ills facing our economy. We do appreciate though government’s commitment not to freeze critical public service posts vacancies, e.g. nurses, doctors, teachers and police officers. However such decisions must be arrived at through engaging unions at the PSCBC and not simply through managerial dictates. The bloated elements in the state are all too often found at the top and not at the front line delivery level.

We totally agree with government that voluntary austerity measures at the expense of economic stimulus and growth approach will be counterproductive and in fact have disastrous effects. South Africa’s fundamental challenge remains our perennial 34% unemployment. If we do not tackle this we will not reduce our massive levels of poverty and inequality. Whilst some government departments are doing excellent work to create jobs, too many departments, provinces and municipalities do not seem to view this as their mandate. This needs to be rectified urgently.

What is patently clear is that government’s National Development Plan is not achieving the economic targets we need and it’s not creating the 100 000 new jobs needed per annum. We are now seeing inflation push upwards towards 7% and this is a crisis for workers. Government needs to act decisively to deal with this and tinkering with the system has proven to be not enough.

While appreciating government’s efforts to increase revenues, stabilise debt levels, reduce the deficit and prioritise infrastructure and service delivery. Unfortunately we remain concerned that this budget will not be able to deliver the economic growth and job creation levels that we need to develop as a nation.

We call on government to increase the role played by the state in the economy and if we are to achieve the radical second phase of our transition, we need to think about restructuring the ownership and control patterns of the economy and abandon the current conservative macroeconomic framework.

International solidarity work

The CEC has reiterated its continued commitment to support of the people of Palestine including the contributing to the BDS campaign. We pledge our unwavering solidarity with the struggling peoples of Swaziland, Cuba, Western Sahara, Basque and Kurdistan, and we undertake to step up our internationalist solidarity protest actions in their support.

COSATU as a progressive class oriented federation shall join the rest of the African affiliates of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) on the momentous occasion of its 17th World Congress in Durban late this year.

On the occasion of the election of a new FIFA president, we hope that the new president will deal with the worker abuses that are taking place in Qatar. If the repeated humans rights and labour violations continue unabated, then the Qataris should lose their right to host the games.

Issued by COSATU, 25 February 2016