COSATU Central Executive Committee statement
24 November 2016
The Congress of South African Trade Unions held a scheduled meeting of its Central Executive Committee from 21-23 November 2016, which was attended by the national office bearers, the representatives of its affiliated unions and provincial structures. The meeting discussed and resolved on a number of organisational, political, international and socio-economic issues affecting the workers and the working class in the country and around the world.
The CEC reflected that there seems to be no respite in the crisis of global capitalism that started with a 2008 banking crisis and mutated into a fully fledged economic recession afterwards. This blatant failure of neoliberalism has resulted in depressed wages, intense exploitation and greater economic burdens for working people. The political effects of this crisis are being felt in many countries, with many governments and democracies dealing with the surging emergence of radical-left tendencies and the ultra-rightwing forces.
The Brexit vote that ultimately ended the British membership of the EU and the election of Donald Trump as the President of USA reflect the emergence of a dangerous narrow nationalism and an upsurge in rightwing politics, especially in the Western countries. This is fed, to a certain extent, by the common people’s rejection of globalisation, neoliberal policies and austerity measures that have decimated their standards of living.
The international situation for the workers is even gloomier. The number of unemployed people is higher than pre-crisis levels. The global economic outlook is forecast by the IMF to grow no more than 3.4%, with rising unemployment and inequality, creating a growing resentment against international finance capital and the neoliberal policies from the international working class.
In South Africa, the persistent low economic growth rate, since 2009, has left millions of workers and citizens facing unemployment, inequality and deepening poverty. The CEC acknowledged that the current balance of social and political forces in the country favour white monopoly capital that still maintains its stranglehold on the commanding heights of the economy.
A weakened and divided ANC coupled with a dysfunctional alliance have failed to ensure that the progressive resolutions of the ANC are implemented by our government. The failure to implement the progressive resolutions of the ANC by government ,coupled with our flagging economy has further strengthened the influence of finance capital, through sovereign rating agencies, which are now dictating macroeconomic policy decisions taken by the government.
The National Treasury’s obsession with pacifying ratings agencies in the face of growing unemployment and retrenchments and the stubborn adherence to the Neoliberal macroeconomic framework despite a failing economy points to an organisation and a government that has abandoned the concept of a radical economic transformation.
The corruption scandals, deepening poverty and unemployment have created a fluid and an unpredictable political situation. This political uncertainty is troubling for the federation andconstitutes a setback for revolutionary forces and the working class in general.
The CEC, though, also noted that like all other crises, this one also opens up an opportunity for the workers and the working class to influence the future and direction of the revolution and the country. This period of change is an opportunity for the progressive forces to intensify their fight to transform and restructure our economic structure and ensure that the economically marginalized are brought into the mainstream economy.
The CEC meeting resolved that COSATU’s main preoccupation going forward should be the struggle to reverse economic domination by a cabal of White monopoly cartels, under the protection of a retrogressive and reactionary National Treasury. To achieve this; the federation and its affiliates shall continue with the programme of focusing on bread and butter issues of our members and the broader socioeconomic and political struggles in the interests of the working class as a whole.
The working class also needs to also deal with the effects of drought and dwindling water supplies across the country. This has already resulted in workers struggling with food prices and sometimes losing their jobs. This is a cruel reminder that global warming is real and climate change is upon us. COSATU has resolved to take the lead in ensuring that we take the debate about climate into the mainstream of our public discourse. This needs our attention because it will have severe implications on the security of food, jobs, including our education and health systems if not properly managed.
The meeting congratulated our affiliates SACTWU for its successful national congress, and SASBO that is celebrating its centenary as South Africa’s first and foremost finance trade union.
The CEC has expressed contentment with the federation’s process of introspection; that has led to the enrichment of the content of our Back to Basics perspective, as discussed by the 11th Congress and the 2013 Organising and Bargaining conference. The CEC reiterated its assertion that the task of building a strong workplace organisation must be anchored by intensification of the ongoing Back to Basics and Listening Campaign.
We have successfully managed to translate the Back to Basics programme into a meaningful practical activity to strengthen our workplace organisation and to close the gap between the leadership and the members they lead. We shall continue to build class consciousness amongst our cadres and to wage sustained campaigns that have a huge impact on the broader policy and political landscape.
The federation has also effectively managed to make sure that its programmes are based on the reality and clear understanding that the glorious days of our federation shall not be returned through wishful thinking but only through honest hard work by affiliates and everyone. We are honestly and decidedly tackling the problematic tendencies that have developed within some of our affiliates head-on and are also implementing the declaration of the 12th Congress of putting our pronouncements and resolutions into practice.
We also appreciate and recognise that we are attempting to forge a united and militant federation under qualitatively different conditions, which include the steady decline in the rate of unionisation, dire economic situation, the fragmentation and mushrooming of new trade unions.
The meeting has also resolved to continue to visit, engage and listen to workers from their places of work and prioritise campaigns that are aimed at reducing wage inequality, improving workers retirement benefits and also ensuring that they receive better skills development and training. We shall take up this fight for better wages and improved benefits to the employers without fear of favour.
The CEC was happy that the federation has spent the last twelve months, since the 12th National Congress, focusing its attention on broad social and policy issues and also addressing the immediate concerns of its members. We are gradually re-asserting ourselves as a social force for transformation and are also diligently rebuilding our organised power, including our capacity to mobilise. The activities, campaigns, meetings and congresses of the federation and its affiliates have proven that COSATU remains committed to worker control and democracy.
The struggles that we have waged since our last congress prove without a doubt that COSATU has partially recovered from its disarray and is focusing its energies on worker issues. We have shown this recovery by influencing public policy discussion and working hard to monitor and push government to stick to its promises and commitments. This is evidenced by our ability to stop the implementation of the Taxation Law Amendment Act, defeating reactionary lobby groups like Free Market Foundation, South African Institute of Race Relations and backward looking political parties like the DA in their attempt to attack the National Minimum Wage and Collective Bargaining and other progressive policies.
It is COSATU that has successfully pushed for the adoption of the UIF Amendment Bill, which has finally been adopted by the National Assembly's Portfolio Committee on Labour and the National Council of Provinces. It is a progressive bill, which will see billions of rands of UIF funds channeled to workers by increasing UIF benefits from 8 months to 12 months, increasing maternity leave payments from 54% of income to 66%, including mothers, who had miscarriages in the third trimester and stillborns under maternity leave. It will empower the Minister to set special regulations for domestic workers on the issue of maternity leave.
Its COSATU that has managed to remove from the bill controversial sections that Department of Labour had brought into it after the Bill had left NEDLAC, for an example, the clause dealing with abortion. We are currently busy engaging with government and other social partners at Nedlac on how to expand access to the UIF to cover the informal sector and self employed workers, like taxi drivers, including paternity, parental and adoption leave.
We have also successfully forced government and business into negotiations for a legislated National Minimum Wage and made sure that those who were hellbent on undermining and ultimately killing the National Minimum Wage do not succeed.
The federation has also forced government to release a white paper of the National health Insurance and our focus now is on winning the battle of getting the NHI implemented in our life time. We will fight any attempt to delay or sabotage the implementation of the National health Insurance inside or outside of government.
We have pushed and persuaded our government into releasing the Comprehensive Social Security Discussion paper for discussion at Nedlac. This paper has been released and we shall be going to Nedlac to ensure that it serves the interests and the aspirations of the workers and the working class.
The federation has ensured that the National Parliament passes the Extension of Security of Tenure Amendment Bill in 2017. We have made sure that its key progressive clauses include: protecting farm workers from evictions; provide legal representation to farm workers facing evictions and ensure that the human and other rights of farm workers are not violated. The bill shall also enshrine the legal rights of farm workers’ dependents and relatives, guaranteeing access to grave sites to farm workers and also compel farm owners to maintain the homes of farm workers.We are also currently busy working with national parliament on how debt relief can be provided to our most indebted and impoverished workers and consumers
The CEC expressed satisfaction with the overall turnout of the workers during its one day national strike to mark the International Day for Decent Work on the 07th October 2016. Despite all the victimization and intimidation most workers came out to send a clear message to both government and big business that the status quo is unacceptable. Workers made it very clear to employers that they are ready to fight. We shall continue to intensify our campaigns with the understanding that this will be a long and a protracted struggle to achieve decent work for South African Workers. We are busy representing all the workers that were victimised by employers for participating on our 07th October march for Decent Work.
Going forward, we will defend our right to collective Bargaining with everything we have and will keep pushing back against all those, who are hell-bent on taking away our hard worn rights. We have the department of labour in our radar for its failures to ensure employers compliance with the country’s labour laws and all those employers, who continue to seek creative ways of evading compliance with labour legislation.
In celebrating the 31st anniversary of COSATU, the CEC acknowledged the remarkable resilience and political maturity of the federation and its capacity to analyse and evolve with the changing times. We have shown a remarkable improvement over the last year and despite some shortcomings, we remain the best organised and class conscious giant federation of the South African workers. It is within this spirit and commitment, to remain a fighting, militant and campaigning federation of workers that we will approach our work going forward.
The meeting also noted the continued offensive, misinformation campaign and rumour mongering intended to weaken and undermine the federation and its affiliates. The CEC appreciated the federation’s vigilance and its efforts in ensuring that the workers are not complacent, their unions are not bureaucratic and that the unity and cohesion of the federation remains sacrosanct.
COSATU is worried that government’s adherence to the current Neoliberal paradigm, their preoccupation with reducing the budget deficit to pacify ratings agencies will not resolve our economic crisis. This is happening at a time, when the cost of living has been rising, with severe impact on poor households that on average spend 34% of their income on food, as inflation rose since September 2014 from 4.6% to 6.1% in 2016. This is taking place in the context where around half of the population is poor and experiencing food insecurity and hunger.
We are worried by government’s failure and lack of political will to implement the NHI and free higher education. The CEC condemned the National Treasury for opportunistically trying to use the low economic growth and declining revenue collected to the fiscus as a pretext to lobby for the permanent scrapping of these policy imperatives.
COSATU will fight any attempts to sabotage the NHI and failure to rollout Free Education for the poor. We shall continue to monitor the work of both the Competition Commission’s Health Market Inquiry and the Davis Tax Committee because we are aware that their findings will have far-reaching implications on the implementation of the NHI.
The federation has tabled a section 77 NEDLAC Notice in demand of free education and we shall be liaising with all stakeholders and mobilising members and workers in general for a possible national strike if there is no solution to the impasse. The CEC has made it very clear that education is not only a socio-economic matter but is also a human rights issue. We shall beef our team of negotiators that will be tackling this matter at Nedlac. The federation regards Nedlac as a platform, where society can engage in a sound dialogue to find a sustainable solution to the current impasse on education funding. Our failure to find a sustainable solution on time will have a huge negative socio-economic impact on our society.
We are reiterating our call for the introduction of wealth tax that will help with the funding of free education and that the country’s budget must prioritise free education. This process of finding a sustainable funding model should be linked to the demand for curriculum transformation. We need a curriculum that is decolonised and not Eurocentric but that also responds to the needs of this continent and our country in particular.
The federation rejects the National Treasury’s austerity measures that have resulted in government permanently closing existing public service vacancies. We caution government that we will not allow them to use the moratorium on wage increases on political office bearers, as a prelude to introduce the same wage cuts in the next round of public sector wage negotiations next year.
The meeting resolved to start the mobilisation process in the public service in preparation for the anticipated battles ahead. We issue a call to all our members in the public service to prepare for a serious push back against government’s austerity measures and realise that nothing will be given; but everything will have to be gained through struggle in the next round of public service wage negotiations.
On Economy and unemployment
The CEC reiterated its frustration with the slow pace of transformation of the ownership and control of the South African economy. The South African economy and land are increasingly foreign-owned as evidenced by mergers and acquisitions. Unfortunately, similar to international experience, these investments have resulted in the loss of jobs over time in the acquired companies.
The new report by Statistics South Africa that shows that South Africa’s jobless rate rose to a new record of 27.1% in the third quarter should prove as a call to action for both government and big business.
COSATU has argued that in order to address unemployment in this country, we need to address the legacy of concentration and domination of the South African economy by a few monopolies. There is little space for SA small firms to succeed and create jobs for the 9 million unemployed workers because the economy is dominated by cartels. This is in addition to high administered prices such electricity, transport costs, non- availability of cheap finance, and contractionary macroeconomic policies, which stifle the impact of industrial policy.
The fact that South Africa has the highest jobless rate of more than 60 emerging and developed countries, according to Bloomberg, and also that we have the highest rate on unemployment since 2003 is an unmitigated disaster. This is unacceptable, when you consider that the estimated cash held by all JSE companies is now close to R600 billion on deposits in South African banks; and that this has increased since the 2008 financial crisis. Despite the loss of 1 million jobs due to the crisis, companies have continued to increase their profits. Instead of increasing their investment in SA, most local companies, such as SASOL, Life Healthcare, and Steinhoff have decided to invest in developed countries like Britain and Australia. The federation is adamant that some of these investments, mergers and acquisitions are often done to increase the egos of the CEO’s, increase the bonuses of the CEO’s rather than to increase the technological capacity of their companies or create jobs. Most of these transactions have resulted to more jobs losses and they tend to create a crisis of profit long-term.
The CEC shall campaign for stricter investment laws to ensure that Merger & Acquisitions transactions do not result in job losses. The Competition Act should be amended to prohibit job losses 10 years after the merger. It is not enough to make it a condition that there will be no job losses only in 2 years and this should also include section 189A retrenchments. The flexibility around retrenchment of workers have allowed employers to abuse workers as retrenchment under section 189A can be used to do anything that is prohibited under LRA as long as it can be proved that the retrenchment is within section 189A. COSATU wants to see a review of the legislation that regulates retrenchments.
Business should not be allowed to make profits whilst not giving back to the society by hiding behind the so-called lack of confidence in the government. There cannot be a question policy uncertainty when the SA government has adopted the National Development Plan, the New Growth Path and the Industrial Policy Action Plans. Therefore we view business’s reluctance to reinvest profits in SA as a form of political pressure rather for business reasons.
We are pushing forward with the preparations for a Jobs Summit early next year because we believe that there is a need for a pact covering jobs, income and prices. The date for the summit must still be set after an engagement with government
The meeting expressed concern that the Alliance is struggling to define and unite itself after the local government election campaign saw serious divisions and the election results saw the ANC lose support. We spent a lot of time discussing the future of the Alliance and its relevance in achieving the goals and aspirations of the working class.
We find it troubling that our movement continues to be preoccupied with its internal challenges and continues to be caught up in a relentless partisan fighting and political gridlock. The immediate priority for the federation is to implement the resolution of the 12th National Congress to strengthen the alliance and contribute to the process of uniting and strengthening the African National Congress.
We will do so by frankly engaging with our Alliance partners; and we will defend them when it’s necessary but also criticise them when there is a need to do so. All of our actions shall at all times be informed by the need to unite the Alliance and also ensure that the ANC in particular builds its capacity and has the necessary confidence to lead the Alliance and society.
The CEC made it clear that COSATU is not a junior partner in the Alliance and therefore it should not allow any alliance partner to instruct it on what it must do. We shall work to ensure that such attitudes do not persist from any of our alliance partners because if this is not properly managed it has the potential of leading to the disintegration of the alliance and in undermining its unity and cohesiveness.
The CEC called on both COSATU and the SACP to try and put more effort in implementing the decisions taken in our bilateral meetings, in order to intensify our class battles. The meeting also called on these two left formations to continue engaging each other on the state of the national democratic revolution, including assessing challenges, opportunities, and threats facing the revolution.
The federation also resolved to actively participate in the discussions, relating to the SACP’s relationship to state power and the call by some of its structures to contest for political power. We want to make sure that this debate is not reduced to a mere call for the SACP to contest in elections for its own sake ;but that it answers some fundamental theoretical and practical questions on how we are going to achieve socialism.
The CEC also reflected on the question of who should lead the ANC out of its current political gridlock and into the future. We engaged on this issue driven by our devotion to the Alliance and the desire to see the ANC united and ready to lead the second radical phase of our transition. Complicating the issues, was the fact that we are have not finalised the formulation of our own new mid-term strategic perspective to help provide a cohesive framework that should act as a guide on what needs to be done going forward on all fronts.
With that in mind and after an intense and robust debate, the CEC resolved to support and lobby for the Deputy President of the ANC, Cde Cyril Ramaphosa to take over the reigns as the next president of the ANC. We are mindful of the fact that we are not a voting structure of the ANC but we represent workers, who are members and supporters of the ANC. We also support the proposal that the ANC should explore the possibility of avoiding slates and contestations in its next conference. In this regard, we shall work to lobby and influence the ANC structures to support Cde Cyril Ramaphosa as the next leaders of the movement.
We shall continue to further reflect and engage on the caliber of the leadership collective that will work with him to take the movement into the future. In our consideration we shall be guided by the following criteria:
- Commitment to the radical NDR and thorough-going transformation
- Proven commitment to the Alliance
- Commitment to the fight against corruption
- Commitment to the unity of the ANC and the democratic movement
- Commitment to make this decade truly a decade of workers and the poor
- Commitment to defending and preserving the anti imperialist and internationalist character of the ANC.
- Rooted in or with a background in working class movement
This leadership collective should act as the centre and also be guided by the resolutions of the ANC.
Corruption and State of the capture}
The meeting resolved that the federation should continue to fight corruption at all levels of our society. We shall fearlessly fight both public sector and private sector corruption in equal measure.
The meeting supported the call for a Judicial Enquiry to look into the alleged corruptive relationship between President Jacob Zuma and other cabinet ministers and the Gupta family. The CEC cautioned against the public lynching of those, who have not been found guilty in the courts of laws but also insisted that those found guilty should be held accountable for their actions and face the music.
The federation also wants to see the investigation into the State Capture extended beyond the limited scope that was given to the Public Protector. It is troubling for us that despite the existence of many resolutions of ANC conferences and Alliance summits on the economy, our macroeconomic policies are dictated by finance monopoly capital, with the sovereign rating agencies providing an on-going oversight role. This represents the capture of our institutions by private interests.
We need an investigation on the extent that government institutions have been captured, seeing that many organs and functions of the South African state are outsourced to capital, including policy-making and research as shown by the National Minimum Wage debate at Nedlac and recently the NHI.
Politically, we also have the responsibility to reflect and debate, whether the ANC has the capacity, consciousness and commitment to use its access to the state to resist the power of monopoly capital and to catalyse radical socio-economic transformation.
Violence in the mining sector
The CEC condemned the failure of the government leadership to provide the necessary leadership to stop the continuing killings in the mining sector. Many members of the NUM have been victims of violence across the sector. We are happy that some AMCU members have been sentenced to life in prison for their crimes against NUM members but are also disappointed that some of the charges against the alleged perpetrators were dropped. The federation is calling for calm in the mining sector and remain committed to peace amongst workers and strongly support the principle of Freedom of Association, especially for the working class.
The meeting has submitted a vote of no confidence on the minister of Mineral Resources, Mosebenzi Zwane as a minister in the sector. He is a weak and a polarising figure that has failed to deal with the biggest issue like retrenchments, illegal mining and the ongoing violence. His collusion with other unions to isolate and attack the NUM was the last straw for the CEC. We are calling for him to step aside or to be dismissed.
Issued by Sizwe Pamla, National Spokesperson, COSATU, 24 November 2016