COSATU Central Executive Committee statement -28 February 2019
28 February 2019
The Congress of South African Trade Unions held a scheduled meeting of its Central Executive Committee from 25-27 February 2019. The meeting discussed a number of issues affecting the workers and the working class in the country and around the world.
We have noted that throughout the world the ruling elites are imposing extreme sacrifices upon the workers. They are mostly succeeding where the unions are weak or divided. In this unfolding capitalist crisis, trade unions need to respond by taking up the fight in defence of jobs, improved wages and benefits to the employers in a united and fearless way.
The CEC concluded that any failure by trade unions to unite and collectively work together to defend the interests of our members in the face of this widening social and economic crisis will be reckless and suicidal.
The CEC condemned the International Association of Athletics and Federation (IAFF) for their victimisation of Caster Semenya. This dehumanising campaign should be opposed by all properly adjusted people and progressives around the world, especially because Caster Semenya’s human rights: her right to identity; her right to bodily integrity and her right to privacy are being violated by an international institution that ought to know better.
The CEC condemned the killing of NUM members in the mining sector. What is worrying is that everyone is turning a blind eye to the vigilante tendencies of AMCU. Some of AMCU members have been convicted of killing NUM members and this is also the same union that does not abide by any labour laws. We are angry that Minister Bheki Cele failed to deal with the violence in the mining sector. It is peculiar that government did not hesitate to deploy the State Security Agency and the SAPS at Eskom to look for unproven saboteurs but they are indifferent to the slaughter of workers by a militia, disguised as a union, in one of the strategic sectors of the economy.
The Federation has started this year with the same commitment to building stronger affiliates and strengthening its engines at all levels. The CEC saluted all the workers who responded to the call on the 13th and 19th of February 2019 to strike against job losses. We plan to build on this momentum and intensify the fight against increasingly hostile employers. We acknowledge the unrelenting commitment and resilience of our affiliates, who continue to assert their presence across all the sectors the economy.
COSATU will be celebrating the 2019 May Day under the theme: Deepen the Back to Basic Campaign, Consolidate the Struggle for NDR and Advance the Struggle for Socialism”
We will continue our tradition of having decentralised Mayday events all across the country's nine provinces. Our main Mayday event will be held in KZN with a special focus also given to the North West Province.
The 40-hour working week demand
The Federation has submitted its demand for a 40 hour at Nedlac for discussions by social partners. This means that we need more regulation in the labour market to reduce working hours and joblessness. Many workers like Bus drivers, Truck drivers, security workers work long hours and this means that they do not have time for their families. We believe that the reduction of working hours will force the bosses to employ more workers thus creating more jobs. Instead of relying on long hours the bosses can also be forced to invest in the skills development of workers in order to increase the productivity of workers.
On the National Health Insurance
The CEC welcomed the outcome of the Presidential Health Summit report that concluded on the establishment of a state pharmaceutical company, as well as formalising training and increasing the appointment of the community health workers. We also welcome the increased funding on health care. The Federation however is concerned about the silence on the establishment of the national health insurance fund. We call for the tabling of the NHI bill in parliament.
COSATU calls for a multi-stakeholder approach to the implementation of the health summit interventions. We further call on the Presidency to speedily develop the health summit social compact for stakeholders to sign and implement the health summit interventions.
Public Service wage bill- social media profiling
The CEC condemned the Minister’s provocative and deceptive statements about the public sector wage bill. The allegation that the bill is threatening the state’s survival is nothing but naked propaganda that is supposed to pacify ratings agencies. The reality is that the wage bill is, in fact, stable and in line with international norms at 35%. We reject the attempt by the minister to use the National Parliament to negotiate with workers, instead of tabling the issues at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council.
The CEC also condemned and rejected the DPSA’s unilateral decision to spy on workers and conduct social media profiling. While an average employer has a legitimate level of curiosity on what his/her employees do in their lives, it is totally unacceptable to have a government’s surveillance program that is meant to intimidate and punish employees and potential employees for their views. A free society is a society that allows people to say what they think and dissent without fearing victimisation by a government.
COSATU has noted the statement by Minister Tito Mboweni on questioning the relevance of SOE’s. We want to remind the Minister that his own party has conference resolutions on the matter, so he can familiarise himself with them. The argument that markets and private investment are inherently more efficient than public-sector delivery does not reflect South African realities. South Africa has a very high unemployment rate and if the government were to privatise strategic SOE’s, it will be, literally, abandoning the poor and the unemployed to the vagaries of the market. State control of SOE’s is necessary to ensure adequate, quality provision of services to the poor, and to initiate strategic investments to restructure the economy.
We agree that there are too many SOE’s and we agree that a debate around merging some of them to avoid duplication and reducing costs is necessary. This has to include broad consultation with workers whose jobs and livelihoods will be impacted by the reconfiguration.
COSATU continues to argue that energy production is the hallmark of industrial capitalism. Hence, we argue that energy production; transmission and distribution cannot be left to the private hands but must be state-owned and controlled. This is a national security sector which must be protected from private sector profit motives. We, therefore, demand that the corporatisation of Eskom and current attempts to privatise its assets must be stopped. We are still very angry about government signing an agreement with the renewable energy independent power producers (REIPPs). This should not just be reviewed but should be cancelled immediately.
We remain opposed to the unbundling of Eskom into three different entities. The CEC remains adamant that the unbundling of Eskom can only come with privatisation, as well as a loss of jobs in the public entity.
The CEC meeting, therefore, resolved that COSATU must convene technical experts from the affiliates on the issue of Eskom to propose alternatives to the unbundling of Eskom. NEDLAC will be convening a meeting with social partners with the Minister of Energy, Finance, Public Enterprises as well as Mineral resources on the unbundling of Eskom. COSATU leadership, as well as its affiliate leadership, will attend this meeting to continue to oppose the unbundling of Eskom.
The budget speech presented by the Minister of Finance continues to impose the 1% Vat hike on the poorest of the poor without reprieve. The CEC is not satisfied with the expansion of the basket of goods that are unaffected by VAT and has, therefore, resolved that COSATU must table a section 77 at NEDLAC on the Vat hike.
The meeting welcomed the news that the UIF will step in to assist Edcon to avoid liquidation. This will ensure that more than 140 000 jobs are saved. The CEC acknowledged the critical leadership of the workers federation , COSATU, for resolving the liquidation of Edcon. The meeting has insisted though that COSATU needs to make sure that the usage of the UIF funds remains worker friendly.
National Minimum Wage
The CEC has noted attempts by various employers to avoid paying the minimum wage and has instructed COSATU’s education department to develop an educational program that will educate workers on the minimum wage and their labour rights. The CEC concluded that COSATU together with all affiliates must roll out mass education programs on the future of work.
PIC Amendment Bill
The CEC commends the National Assembly for adopting the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) Amendment Bill yesterday. This bill is one of the most progressive, anti-corruption and pro-worker bills since 1994.
It is badly needed given the avalanche of looting that is being exposed at the PIC Commission of Enquiry established by the President. The federation is perturbed by reports that some people in the ANC have been trying to kill this bill. We have raised this with the ANC and we want to make it very clear that we will fight back against this attempt to capture the PIC. We demand comprehensive accountability and transparency mechanisms at the PIC. Those comrades, who have looted, are still looting and want to continue to loot should know that workers are watching them. COSATU will stop at nothing to protect the PIC Amendment Bill and fight to stop the pillaging of workers’ monies.
COSATU is unhappy that there is no appetite or political will to investigate and prosecute private sector corruption. The private sector is also fully responsible for the economic mess that the country finds itself in. It is totally unacceptable that despite the fact that there were amendments made to the Competition Act criminalising collusion and calling for jail terms of up to ten years on directors and employees found guilty, there is no one who has been sent to prison.
The federation has taken a decision to put together a legal team to start following the ongoing Commissions of Inquiry so that they can follow the proceedings and open cases where necessary. The time for indecisiveness is over for law enforcement agencies.
On the national political situation, the CEC expressed its discomfort at the current state of the ANC, as the leading component of the Alliance, at a time when there is deepening socioeconomic crises and growing mass discontent in the country. We remain bothered by the self-inflicted blows and damages that have weakened the ANC and only serve to strengthen the adversaries of our revolution. We remain troubled by the ongoing undermining of the progressive policies, especially economic policies by the remnants of the 1996 Class Project that are regrouping in the ANC and government, especially the Treasury. The federation is of the view that these individuals are responsible for this troubling pattern of indecisiveness or even retreat from some of the Nasrec resolutions, including in this year’s budget speech.
Despite some very noticeable weaknesses, the ANC government has delivered for the workers over the last five years. It has delivered the National Minimum Wage and the Unemployment Insurance Amendment Bill that increased the UIF benefits from 8 to 12 months and also increased maternity leave benefits from 54% to 66% of salary within the thresholds.
The ANC also pushed for the passing of the Extension of Security of Tenure Amendment Bill whose key progressive provisions in the bill include substituting the provision of subsidies with tenure grants and providing legal remedies for farm workers who have been victims of eviction. The ANC government provides free education for the children of poor workers and is in a process of translating the National Health Insurance into a reality.
The recent 54th National Conference of the ANC also took resolutions which constitute long-standing COSATU demands and these include on amongst others; Nationalisation of the SARB and Expropriation of land without compensation subject to food security concerns.
The Nasrec conference and the ANC Manifesto have both called for the adoption of more expansionary fiscal and monetary policies and called for more involvement by the state in the economy. The ANC Manifesto is geared towards employment creation and the extension of social grants to the poor; and the establishment of free basic services as a right.
Having taken all factors into consideration, the CEC still came to the conclusion that the federation should implement the 13th National Congress resolution to campaign for an overwhelming victory of the African National Congress in the upcoming National General Elections set to take place on the 08th of May 2019.
From our analysis, the politically conscious and mobilised stance of COSATU has achieved far more for workers than if we had confined our actions narrowly to the workplace. Our Alliance to the ANC has delivered for the workers and there is still a lot more that we can achieve with the ANC in power, as long as we mobilise to ensure that progressive policies are implemented after elections.
We call on workers to come out and vote for the ANC on the 08th of May 2019. Workers also need to make sure that we push our government towards a new path of a people-centred development trajectory. It up to us as the working class to fix what is wrong with the ANC, anchor its mass based character and keep it as a disciplined revolutionary movement.
- The CEC condemns the coup attempt in Venezuela and denounces the arbitrary nature of the Trump administration’s decision to support the coup in Venezuela. The hypocrisy of America and other Western Countries is astounding when you consider that they have been pontificating and lecturing about democracy and about the people’s right to choose their government at the UN. We call on the United Nations to intervene by stopping the American aggression against the people of Venezuela and reaffirm the country’s sovereign right to pursue an independent path of social, political and economic development.
- The CEC condemned repression against leaders and members of the trade union movement led by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions [ZCTU] as well as the members of the opposition. We are calling on the Zimbabwean government to release all arrested trade union leaders and stop using violence and intimidation to silence dissent.
- COSATU is fully behind the Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) that seeks to raise awareness about Israel's apartheid policies towards the Palestinians and to build support for the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. We are also calling on other organisations and businesses to show their rejection of Israel's military and political aggression, by joining the BDS campaign.
- We reaffirm our solidarity with the people of Palestine and we are calling for an end to the evictions of the Palestinians. We are fully behind the call for all political prisoners and detainees to be released immediately. Our federation supports the fight for an independent Palestinian state with East-Jerusalem as its capital. The Israelis must affirm the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland.
Issued by Sizwe Pamla, National Spokesperson, COSATU, 28 February 2019