COSATU demanding R3,3m in outstanding fees - NUMSA

Union says Federation is now not only politically bankrupt, but appears to be financially bankrupt as well

Numsa public statement on Cosatu lawyers’ letter

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has received a letter from attorneys representing the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) demanding that Numsa pay R3 253 947.03 in outstanding affiliation fees owed to the federation, and threatening to institute legal proceedings if Numsa fails to comply with this demand!

This is the same Cosatu which expelled Numsa, and its then 345 000 members from its ranks on unfounded and preposterous grounds. It is an incredible move which can only mean that the federation is now not only politically bankrupt, but financially bankrupt as well, following the departure of Fawu and financial problems within several affiliates. As part of this new and absurd strategy and in order to fill the coffers of this bankrupt federation, Fawu has equally been targeted.

How else can they explain an attempt to recover money from workers they have expelled and said they no longer want or indeed those who have willingly left their ranks?

On 30 March 2015 the Cosatu CEC went on to confirm the affiliation of a new union, the Liberated Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Limusa) led by a former Numsa president, Cedric Gina. They agreed that Limusa met the requirements for affiliation. This confirmed that there was to be no way back for Numsa, since Limusa was to be operating in exactly the same sectors of the workforce. This new union was of course impelled by Cosatu itself, in advance of unlawfully expelling Numsa as part of a dark and unsettling political strategy.

Numsa was intentionally also denied any right to appeal against its expulsion at two separate National Congresses in 2015 - a special Congress in July, at which Numsa was not allowed to appear and the normal Congress in November. Despite strenuous efforts by Fawu, Saccawu and others to allow Numsa to appeal and to reverse the decision to accept Limusa’s affiliation, the decisions were endorsed.

Yet now this Cosatu leadership who set up a rival union to steal Numsa’s members is demanding that the workers they threw out must pay to keep them afloat!

Not only is this demand for affiliation and political fees an outrage; it has no legal basis. The amount of money being claimed has not been corroborated by any supporting documents and in any case, at least a substantial portion thereof, would have ‘prescribed’, meaning that because the alleged ‘debt’ dates back to 2013, more than three years ago, it can no longer legally be claimed.

In fact and notwithstanding the unfounded claim raised by Cosatu, Numsa confirms that all fees due were correctly paid, right up to the day they were expelled. Not a cent more will be paid to Cosatu, nor will this defunct federation be bankrolled by the sweat and blood of metalworkers!

This latest act by Cosatu unquestionably vindicates the decision taken by Numsa’s Special National Congress (SNC) in December 2013, when it was still affiliated to Cosatu, yet noted that even then Cosatu “is currently in a complete state of paralysis and about to implode if no serious measures are undertaken to save it, unify it, rebuild it and reclaim it from forces who want to destroy or liquidate it… At the centre of these problems are concerted efforts to turn the federation into a conveyor belt that feeds ANC-led government policies into the working class and thus turn Cosatu from a revolutionary, militant and independent union movement into a yellow federation”.

That assessment has been strengthened by this latest move by Cosatu’s leaders.

The SNC gave a mandate to respond to our subsequent expulsion from Cosatu, by working with eight other affiliates who opposed our expulsion to build the foundations of a new independent, democratic and worker-controlled union federation.

This was confirmed by the Workers Summit on 30 April 2016, attended by 1406 representatives of 29 separate trade unions and one existing federation- Nactu, with 22 affiliates, and further supported by a range of civil society and community organisations. Its declaration made a commitment to building “a new, worker-controlled, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, independent, financially self-sufficient, internationalist, socialist-orientated and militant union federation”.

As Cosatu drifts even further into a terminal crisis and moral abyss, the need for a revolutionary alternative grows daily. Workers are impatient to replace the now totally discredited body with a new workers’ federation.

Numsa appeals to all workers who are struggling to save their jobs, to maintain their meagre wages, fighting against the runaway casualisation of labour and resisting attacks on trade union rights to collective bargaining, to join us so that we can build a new militant and socialist workers’ structure to replace the now defunct Cosatu. A new federation which will give voice to our demands for a fundamental change from the sick capitalist and racist monopoly capitalist system and the creation of a socialist world as envisaged by the Freedom Charter.

Statement issued by Numsa General Secretary, Irvin Jim, 15 October 2016