We face complex and daunting challenges going forward – COSATU

Federation says most workers have not seen huge improvements in political environment matched by similar economic advances

COSATU Post-May Day statement 2019

2 May 2019  

The Congress of South African Trade Unions salute and congratulate the thousands of workers, who joined COSATU’s May Day celebrations all across the country. Thousands of workers participated in COSATU May Day activities all across the country and they proved once again that the federation is alive and well and remains the voice of the workers in this country

We also take time to remember the victims of the Bethlehem bus crash, where 53 COSATU members perished on their way to QwaQwa when their bus drove into a dam near Bethlehem, Free State on 1 May 2003. We will never forget those workers and every May Day is a sad reminder of that tragedy.

We thank our affiliates for mobilising workers and providing them with transport. As usual, many of our May Day events were characterised by discipline, peace and a celebratory atmosphere. ,

During this year’s May Day, the federation has once again restated its commitment to the core founding principles of  COSATU like, One Country – One Federation, One Union – One Industry, Paid Up Membership, Worker Control,  worker Solidarity, non –racialism and Unity.

Workers have unambiguously reaffirmed the character of COSATU as a militant, radical federation and class-oriented trade union federation. Our influence on society remains based on our organised power, our capacity to mobilise, our socio-economic programmes and policies and our participation in political and social alliances.

We shall continue to ceaselessly work to build a federation that is preoccupied with the immediate concerns of the membership and that also remains a social force for transformation and the home of all workers. 

As workers, we face complex and daunting challenges going forward. On the economic front, the ruling class remains the same as before 1994 and workers face the same or even worse problems. The overwhelming white owners of the many economic sectors, in alliance with foreign capital, still dominate our economy.

Most workers and their communities have not seen the huge improvements in the political environment matched by similar economic advances. On the contrary, the unemployment, poverty and inequality inherited from apartheid have actually worsened. That is why we will continue to have strong disagreements with any government that pursues economic policies that do little to reverse these trends.

The core of our programme going forward is the need to deepen the organisational capacity of the workers' movement. Only when COSATU and its affiliates are strong can we reverse the setbacks of the past few years.

Our Congress last year mandated us to adopt a vigorous recruitment campaign, with realistic but ambitious targets. But recruitment will only work if unions also improve the quality of service to members. Organisational renewal must bring greater support to our shop stewards, who remain the foundation of our strength. That requires education work at all levels - to address the needs in the workplace and ensure broad discussion of policies and campaigns.

COSATU has a record of 34 years of the firm, unbroken and uncompromising service to the workers. We remain at the forefront of workers’ struggles. We remain of the firm view, that factory-based struggles cannot be divorced from politics. Politics determines who holds state power and we have learned from our common, painful experiences that we can win wage increases at the workplace level, only to have those eroded by increases in transport costs, municipal fee rates, increase in electricity tariffs, food, children’s educational fees, tax and through rising costs of living, etc.

It is for these reasons that we are calling on the workers to come out in their numbers on the 08th of May to vote overwhelmingly for the African National Congress (ANC). On Election Day , let us take the struggle for transformation to new heights and take forward the national democratic revolution.

COSATU and its affiliated unions will redouble their efforts in the election campaign over the next few days. It will be a black day for workers if any party other than the ANC were to come to power.

But we are not voting for the ANC for sentimental reasons. We want to mobilise for a decisive ANC victory so that in return the next government can tilt the balance of forces in favour of the working class and drive a pro-working class transformation of society. We will be making that relationship between workers' votes and government policy clear.

We can no longer expect workers simply to be cannon fodder in election campaigns. The Federation has agreed that in future it will do more to monitor the records of individual elected representatives on issues of importance to workers, and actively support only those with good records.

Issued by Sizwe Pamla, National Spokesperson, COSATU, 2 May 2019