We'll fight any attempt to prevent teachers from striking - Sidumo Dlamini

COSATU President says strong collective bargaining institutions must be created in all sectors of the economy

Opening Address by COSATU President, Sidumo Dlamini, at the COSATU Bargaining, Organising and Campaigns Conference, Held from the 12th - 15th March 2013, Birchwood Conference Centre, March 12 2013

The chairperson of the session,
Members of the Central Executive Committee present
The Alliance Leadership
Delegates from our Mass Democratic formations
Delegates from civil society formations

I give special greetings to the shop stewards and members of our unions present here today.

You are the engine of our federation who through resilience and perseverance continue to keep this federation alive and relevant as the only hope to millions of South African Workers.

Comrades as we meet here today our hearts are still bleeding with pain that Comrade Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela and a leader of the Bolivarian Revolution has passed on. The world has lost one of the greatest revolutionaries who ever set his foot on the planet earth.

Commitment to socialism and his decisiveness inspired all of that one day South Africa will be a socialist country  he demonstrated to us what radical transformation means , he taught all of us what it means to be decisive about using the resources of the country to benefit ordinary people.

Comrade Chavez remained firm and did not retreat an inch on the socialist vision, even when he was condemned bell, book and candle by the international imperialist forces.

Just as we mourn the passing away of comrade Chavez we learn that the world's 100 richest people added $241 US billion to their combined wealth in 2012 and they control an aggregate $1.9 trillion US. Their wealth outstrips the gross domestic product of all but eight countries and they rank behind Italy, but ahead of India and Russia.

An yet according to the latest studies  there will be 74.2 million unemployed youth aged 15 to 24  this year which will be an increase of 3.8 million since 2007. Young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults and over 75 million youth worldwide are looking for work.

Whilst we see others being filthy rich we have to contend with the fact that according to the ILO studies, only 20% of the world's population has adequate social security coverage and more than half lack any coverage at all.

The ILO report also tells us that about 39 million people have dropped out of the labour market as job prospects proved unattainable, opening a 67 million global jobs gap since 2007.

The number of unemployed worldwide is projected to rise by 5.1 million in 2013, to more than 202 million in 2013 and by another 3 million in 2014.

All this pain by the working class is deliberately being worsened by the imposition of austerity measures by governments worldwide as a short-sighted response to the economic crisis.

While global capitalism attacks "the working class, the ruling class increasingly rewards itself with grotesque pay and bonuses, engages in corrupt practices, and isolates itself from the rest of society by creating a privatised cocoon for itself".

The working class is confronted with   growing unemployment; a growing precariousness of employment, declining household incomes, reduced pensions, and reduced social services. 

The fact of the matter is that we will not sit back and fold our arms when it is clear that the working class is being pushed into a dark corner of poverty and of being right less modern slaves.

We meet here today to put to launch a fight and to claim that which belongs to us.

We will not allow that  current generation of workers whether in South Africa or elsewhere in the world  are treated as slaves in the name of global recession when there is enough wealth to feed the world.

Comrades it is because of the painful reality confronting the working class that the COSATU 11th Congress raised a shivering finger and instructed us to call a National Bargaining, Campaigns and Organising Conference which will on among others consider proposals on measures to transform the apartheid wage structure and craft a new national wage policy.

Congress said that these proposals must include a National Minimum Wage, mandatory centralised collective bargaining, as well as ensuring social protection for the unemployed.

The national minimum wage, if adopted, would be linked to a minimum living level, as a basic wage floor above which affiliates will negotiate sectoral wage levels.

This conference is a culmination of a process by our affiliates who were instructed by the 11th Congress to urgently review wages and collective bargaining strategies in their sectors, and develop demands to take forward this programme of transforming our wage structure. This was to include innovative bargaining strategies which move away from an over-reliance on across-the-board percentage increases, as well as challenging entrenched discriminatory grading systems.

The 11th Congress also instructed that as part of our programme we should convene urgent meetings with government and the ANC, at the highest level, to discuss the development of a new wage policy for the country, which will be aimed at deliberately and systematically transforming the current apartheid wage structure.

Congress was unambiguous that we should use every weapon at our disposal to protect and defend the integrity of collective bargaining, and to resist all attempts by employers to undermine it. 

Even if that employer is our own popular government which we voted and  will continue to vote for ,  but when they threaten to take that which belongs to us  as workers we will not hesitate for a moment to demand and claim what it back by force if needs be!

We hear that in the education sector there is an attempt to undermine our union and disregard collective agreements .We want to promise whoever is trying to reverse our hard won gains that we will fight to the bitter end for that which belongs to us as workers!

We have seen how the platinum bosses systematically undermined collective bargaining and promoted division amongst workers, in order to destroy the NUM and promote their union.

The 11th Congress reaffirmed the strike weapon as the primary tool of exercising power that workers have at their disposal. It was agreed that we need to step up our solidarity in strikes, that we should campaign for amendments to the Gatherings Act, and that we should investigate the establishment of workable strike funds, within the framework of a Federation-wide policy.

We were beginning to be worried when we heard some suggestions to make education an essential service. We were beginning to warm up for a battle thanks the ANC president who clarified that this was not the policy of the ANC. We want to make a promise that if this matter comes up again it will find us ready to fight against it mercilessly!

Every day we see employers attempting to reverse our hard won gains and today we need to take stock of all these attempts and respond systematically. We must send a clear message to all employers that it can only be this far and no further!

Comrades, we if we to be asked a simple question as to why are we gathered here today.

We will answer without any equivocation that we are gathered here today as to develop strategies to properly claim and maximise what belongs to us as workers.

We have come here to make a simple and loud call for all to hear that we want our political freedom to be in line and harmonised with economic freedom now!

We have come to call for the abolition of the apartheid wage structure, the creation of strong collective bargaining institutions in all sectors of the economy, and comprehensive social protection for the unemployed!

We have come to call for the creation of decent living conditions where workers live, in rural and in urban areas.

We want access to public health, we want accessible, affordable and efficient public transport, and we want to have our houses as workers built closer to where we live. We have come here to claim and maximise what belongs to us as workers

We have come here to build this federation and our unions into powerful worker-controlled organisations whose main focus is on a battle to improve workers wages improve conditions of employment and defend our jobs.

When we rise from this conference, we will rise united to embark on a united and radical programme of action to achieve our rightful demands!

We will be in every community side by side with the South African Communist Party and the ANC to engage our communities and the broader democratic movement, to support us our demands

Comrades we have come here to demand, claim and maximise what belongs to us workers!

We know that it is only under Socialism that we will attain our complete freedom and our labour power will be compensated for what it is worth.


Issued by COSATU, March 12 2013

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