Matuma Letsoalo, Mandy Rossouw & Rapule Tabane, Mail & Guardian, 1 July 2011
The battle for Cosatu is balanced on a knife edge. This week its central committee postponed key debates as various lobby groups pulled it in different directions. The Blade Nzimande-led South African Communist Party (SACP) tugged it to take a moderate and less critical stance towards government policies and ANC president Jacob Zuma's leadership.
Pulling on the other side, Cosatu's general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, stood accused of agitating for "regime change" as he went for broke, criticising the government's new growth path and the planning commission's diagnostic report.
The debates and divisions on the government's economic policies were also a proxy war between those who want Cosatu to support the present top six ANC leaders and those who, in tandem with the ANC Youth League, propose to replace ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe and Zuma with new leaders. The labour federation is deeply divided about whether or not to support the re-election of Zuma as ANC president next year.
Cosatu members attending the federation's central committee gathering, which ended in Midrand on Thursday, agreed not to enter into an open debate on the ANC succession issue. But the Mail & Guardian has learnt that, behind closed doors, Cosatu leaders have expressed sharp differences on the issue.
At the end of the conference, Vavi said: "The central committee did not engage in a potentially divisive ANC leadership debate but did issue a stark warning to the government that if they are to retain popular support they must stop dithering and zig-zagging, pull their socks up and start implementing all the policies of the Polokwane conference and the 2009 elections, particularly in its five priority areas."
On June 30, the last day of the conference, the federation was forced to postpone a resolution on the national democratic revolution, with Vavi arguing that the draft resolution was badly constructed.
But political observers believe this was a tactic by the Cosatu boss to avoid open tensions between delegates. The fault lines seems to lie between those in Cosatu who would like to see more radical change in the way the government is run and others, like those affiliated to the SACP, who want Cosatu to be less demanding.
The draft resolution also proposed that discussions on the 2012 leadership succession in the ANC, SACP and Cosatu be put on hold. Numerous delegates and leaders of affiliates who spoke to the Mail & Guardian painted a picture of deep divisions across the federation.
They alleged that Nzimande and Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini are leading a group that supports Zuma's re-election, whereas Vavi and Irvin Jim, general secretary of the National Union of Metal Workers South Africa (Numsa), lead the group that is allegedly pushing for "regime change".
The National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu), and parts of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and teachers' union Sadtu support Nzimande's group. The NUM is divided between Mantashe and Vavi, who both hail from the mining fold. The NUM's general secretary, Frans Baleni, supports a grouping in the ANC that is pushing for the re-election of Mantashe as the party's secretary general next year.
But Baleni's deputy, Oupa Komane, supports Vavi and those who are deeply unhappy with the status quo in the ANC.
Vavi's group is mainly supported by Numsa and the South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu).
Baleni told the M&G: "My observation is that there are people who are frustrated by some things that are not happening. We understand people are frustrated with the slowness in which corruption is handled, but that does not mean we should change the leadership."
In Sadtu, divisions also exist because, sources say, president Thobile Ntola prefers a radical Cosatu whereas general secretary Mgwena Maluleke is said to be close to SACP leaders who are deployed in government.
According to a senior alliance leader, Nzimande was pushing hard to convince Cosatu delegates to reject the ANCYL's campaign for leadership change and policy proposals, particularly on the nationalisation of mines.
According to its secretariat report, Cosatu supports the demands for nationalisation and understands it to mean that the state, acting on behalf of all citizens, will take over companies and their resources and transfer them to the people. This closely reflects the youth league view.
But former communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda told the plenary that those who complained about the "new tendencies" -- Nzimande's codeword for the youth leaders -- were implicitly opening the succession debate anyway.
It was decided to refer the debate on the resolution to the central executive committee for a decision, which some say is a victory for Vavi's group.
"If it is taken to the committee, it will allow Cosatu to discuss this without interference from others like those in the SACP," an alliance source said.
Senior alliance leaders, who spoke to the M&G on condition of anonymity, believe Vavi's critical report on Zuma is an indication that he does not want him to be re-elected as ANC president in 2012. It is believed Vavi privately agrees with the youth league position on leadership and policy issues.
"The fact that they don't want to open the leadership debate now is because they want to see what Zuma does, so they don't nail their colours to the mast yet. So he has a warning period for the next year and then they'll decide," a delegate said.
Those unions still sticking with Zuma intends to use his vulnerability to push the ANC into accepting that the alliance, instead of the party, must be the strategic centre of power.
Several sources who attended the central committee meeting said although a large chunk of the unions -- some grudgingly -- threw their support behind Zuma for a second term as ANC president, they would hold him ransom by insisting the alliance became the political centre.
Cosatu and the ANC have been in a ping-pong match since 2007 about where the power should lie. The ANC claims power for itself because the ruling party has the direct support of voters, whereas Cosatu feels the alliance should be the centre where decisions get taken, ensuring leftist positions are implemented by the government.
"We think we'll have to support Zuma but strengthen the institutions outside government to deal with the indecisive leadership we have been subjected to. Our support will, however, have conditions like clear time frames," a unionist who attended the Cosatu meeting said.
"We want to introduce a debate about the alliance becoming the strategic centre. That way decisions get taken by all of us and we can help where he [Zuma] is indecisive," the source said.
Another Western Cape delegate told the M&G that having the ANC at the centre of power served the interests of the bourgeoisie and neglected the working class.
Nzimande also argued strongly for Zuma to be retained. "Blade said [Zuma] is a product of us, all his ministers are products of Polokwane, so we would be betraying our own victories if we don't support him again," a delegate said.
But not all unions are convinced that supporting Zuma is the best way to go.
Delegates have outlined why certain unions feel Zuma has not served their interests:
· The Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers' Union is "suffering" because of labour brokers;
· The South African National Defence Union is on the brink of being disbanded after the Constitutional Court found it to be "unconstitutional"; and
· The South Africa Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers' Union is unhappy about Walmart's unconditional entrance into the local market.
Meanwhile, the ANC in Gauteng said the reason it had also called for an open contest is that the party could not afford to be spectators while Cosatu, the SACP and the youth league were allowed to debate and decide who was fit for the ruling party's leadership. ANC Gauteng spokesperson Nkenke Kekana said the ANC was in shock before the Polokwane conference. "We cannot survive another shock."
1.2 Cosatu fails leadership, economic policy tests
Review conference ducks difficult issues such as ANC succession
Sam Mkokeli, Business Day, 1 July 2011
THE Congress of South African Trade Unions’ (Cosatu’s) four-day review gathering ended with a whimper yesterday, with its 800 delegates failing to take a stand on key political issues.
The gathering opened on Monday with a promise to provide clear direction on the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) leadership succession, but instead postponed crucial debates to future meetings.
As a result of the central committee’s failure to give guidance on key policy issues, Cosatu affiliates will continue expressing conflicting positions on contentious matters like the call to nationalise the country’s mines.
Powerful Cosatu affiliates such as the National Union of Mineworkers and the National Metalworkers of SA differ on the issue of nationalisation.
While Cosatu leaders yesterday blamed staff for garbled reports from breakaway commissions for the failure to pass key resolutions, this could be an indication of divisions within the labour federation.
Reports from two commissions were rejected — suggesting disagreements during discussions on leadership and other policy issues. Documents from commissions that discussed socioeconomic issues and crucial leadership questions were thrown out of yesterday’s report-back session.
They would be discussed at Cosatu’s central committee meetings and its elective congress to be held in September next year.
Issues discussed in commissions included the question of whether the national democratic revolution — the ANC’s guiding philosophy — was on track. Reports on that debate, and one on whether the ANC should have an open leadership contest, were rejected at the gathering’s plenary. A preliminary report on Cosatu’s economic policy flatly rejected the government’s New Growth Path, but was replaced with a document that welcomed it as a start on which to build.
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said at a news conference after the gathering yesterday that the "content and style" of the two reports were a problem. Mr Vavi sought to downplay the rejection of the commission reports. He said Cosatu had a solid stand on key policy matters taken at previous meetings. This included its views on the New Growth Path.
He said Cosatu had initially welcomed the Growth Path and called for it to be tweaked. He said it "falls short of being a document we can declare as being a comprehensive response" to the economy’s structural problems.
Mr Vavi said it was not a "document we can rely upon. We are united around that position."
He said the federation was not backing off from the tough talk and criticism of the government on the first day of the gathering.
Cosatu would go ahead with its programmes — including launching Corruption Watch, an independent body to investigate corruption tipoffs. It would be launched in December and pass on information to prosecutors.
Mr Vavi said the federation was opposed to the opening of the succession debate in the ANC . Early talk would divide the tripartite alliance, he said.
Discussing the ANC leadership would get in the way of dealing with the problem of poverty in SA, he said.
The ANC succession debate had the potential to discredit the ANC in the eyes of the voters, who could be turned off from voting for the party in the 2014 elections, Mr Vavi claimed.
National Union of Mineworkers general secretary Frans Baleni said yesterday it was not a crisis that there were no resolutions. "It is not the end of the world."
He said the meeting had time constraints which had hampered sorting out key differences.
National Union of Metalworkers of SA general secretary Irvin Jim said affiliates had different views, which he considered healthy.
However, the federation decided to stick with the ANC alliance despite its criticism of its functioning and especially the weak leadership of President Jacob Zuma.
After discussing options for the federation — whose membership has grown from 1,8-million to 2- million — it decided an alliance with the ANC was still the best option.
A document presented for discussion by members gave them four scenarios to discuss, including opting out of the alliance and for Cosatu to establish itself as a political party. Mr Vavi said this week that a survey found most members would not back Cosatu as a political party.
Cosatu ended its four-day central committee meeting on Thursday with a declaration that avoided talk of “new tendencies” and “demagogues” and a failure to agree on burning issues such as succession within the ANC and what to do about socio-economic policies.
What was expected to be a heated plenary session to decide the labour federation’s position on whether ANC leaders in government were doing their jobs was deferred to Cosatu’s central executive committee due to meet behind closed doors later this month.
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi on Thursday night denied the reason for this was that the federation was divided.
“We insist we are united as an organisation, but we are not an organisation that does not have a debate. There will always be discussions between unions,” Vavi said.
These discussions were to continue up until Cosatu holds its elective congress next year, “but it doesn’t signal in any way that Cosatu is not at one”, he said.
Vavi said the document that had emerged from the political commission on Wednesday could not be discussed in plenary as it was “badly written” and “did not reflect the rich discussions in the commission”. Independent Newspapers understands that these were quite heated.
The document broadly outlines a Cosatu battle plan to counter the ANC Youth League’s declared attempt to usurp Cosatu’s role as the “vanguard of the working class”, and to kick off talks about the succession.
ANC national working committee member Siphiwe Nyanda, during the plenary, slammed Cosatu for “contradictions” in the report, which called on alliance members to put a lid on premature ANC succession talk, while also attacking the “new tendency” gaining ground within the organisation ahead of the ANC’s elective congress in Mangaung in December next year .
Referring to this “new tendency” was in effect also talk about succession, Nyanda told delegates.
Fellow ANC leader Tony Yengeni raised concerns that the ANC would be excluded from discussions about Cosatu’s political direction if the talks took place in a closed central executive committee meeting. He was assured that the party would be invited.
Sources present at the political commission that sat on Wednesday, and which was the best-attended of all the commissions, said Cosatu affiliates were divided over whether the national democratic revolution -– shorthand in the alliance for eradicating poverty, unemployment and inequality – was on track or not.
Some argued it was on track, because the government had put in place programmes to address these problems, while others said the fact these problems persisted was proof that the revolution had lost its way.
The commission also discussed the language Vavi had used in his secretariat report – when he referred to malign “tendencies”.
“Some reckoned this tendency of labelling people with tendencies was a problem,” one delegate said.
Cosatu has used the “new tendency” label to refer to ANCYL leader Julius Malema and ANC leaders forming a “predatory elite” who are more interested in lining their own pockets than improving conditions for all.
Cosatu has also adopted the SACP’s label of “right-wing demagogues” to describe Malema and his allies.
In the declaration adopted on Thursday afternoon and presented as the “sum total” of its discussions, there was no reference to any of these labels.
Discussions about vexing socio-economic issues such as the expropriation of land, the nationalisation of mines and the government’s economic plan, the New Growth Path, were also deferred.
The labour federation did adopt a resolution on its living wage campaign, threatening mass action if its demands for higher wages for low-paid workers were not met.
Unions are set to start with wage bargaining in the coming weeks.
Cosatu's central committee meeting closed on Thursday, with no resolutions emerging on key political and economic issues.
Cosatu did not take decisions on whether or not to open talks on the ANC's election of new leadership next year, or on the call for nationalisation or land reform, which featured on its agenda for discussion.
The trade union federation deferred the talks to a leadership meeting in August after the central committee ran out of time and documents emerging from group discussions on the economy and politics were poorly written, said general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.
"The content and style ... that's why it wasn't discussed, it was going to take us in 20 different directions," he told reporters at a media briefing after the delegates were sent home.
Vavi was referring to the political document, the draft of which included nationalisation, the succession debate, and the emergence of what Cosatu termed a "new tendency" -- where people used political connections for their own accumulation interests", adopting an "it's our turn to eat" stance.
"If we had time.. there would have been a discussion of all manner of things," he said, adding that this included the issue of "demagogues" in the movement.
The draft document read: "They rely on populist demagoguery politics to allow them enough political space and power to push for their accumulation agenda."
Cosatu earlier said this referred to some within the ANC Youth League.
"They seize and use popular working class issues to stir emotions of unsuspecting and disgruntled sections of the working class in society when their actual agenda is to secure power and use such power against the very working class."
The resolution suggested this group was backed by "well-resourced and powerful business and politicians".
That it did not spell out how these developments should be dealt with was part of the reason Vavi suggested that decisions on it be taken later.
Many delegates had also left before the end of the committee meeting, with the hall only half full on Thursday.
On the socioeconomic resolutions, he said the committee had only 15 minutes to deal with a matter of such importance.
Vavi said the fact that there were no resolutions on the difficult and contested issued did not mean that there were divisions within the movement.
"Does that represent destructive debate or divisions? No," he said, emphasising that Cosatu was an organisation with a culture of debate.
Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini was also emphatic on the unity of the organisation.
"This is unity of leadership," he said, with Cosatu's top leaders sitting alongside him. "I'm saying that to dispel any myth of divisions."
Not quite out of their league
While Cosatu has raised the flag over the "new tendency" and "demagogues" within the youth league, its stance on nationalisation and land reform are similar to the league's.
It supports nationalisation as described in the Freedom Charter.
The federation's discussion documents on the matter also spell out the need for nationalisation of the SA Reserve Bank, and the transport and construction sectors.
Like the league, it supports expropriating private land and wants section 25 of the Constitution, the property clause, scrapped. Section 25 allows for government's acquisition of land for redistribution, with compensation.
Cosatu's central executive committee would meet in August to thrash out the unresolved issues.
The federation also warned the ANC-led government to "stop dithering" and pull up its socks.
"The central committee did not engage in potentially divisive ANC leadership debate but did issue a stark warning to the government that if they are to retain popular support they must stop dithering and zigzagging, pull their socks up and start implementing policies of the Polokwane conference and the 2009 elections [manifesto]," said Vavi.
Government had to ensure that it delivered on jobs, addressing inequality and tackling corruption as this was the yardstick which would be used to measure at election time in 2014.
If the government failed to deliver, it would be at a "massive cost", said Vavi.
The labour federation's four-day central committee meeting, in Midrand, failed to reach consensus on key policy and political issues, with clear differences among leaders.
Important discussions of the contentious New Growth Path, land reform and nationalisation of key sectors of the economy were deferred until August, when Cosatu's central executive committee will meet behind closed doors to iron out the differences.
Cosatu chose to steer clear of the ANC succession debate, arguing that opening the discussion prematurely would distract the alliance from the crucial responsibility of improving the lives of the poor.
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi told reporters yesterday the federation would also be held responsible if the ANC government failed to deliver.
"[ANC succession in] 2012 must be debated in that context, it can't be just about the race for who is going to be the leader 18 months before the [party's national] conference.
"Can we focus on ensuring that by the time we go to the 2014 [elections] we can show [our people] that we have succeeded in implementing the five priorities," he said.
Unemployment, poverty and inequality would be the main areas of accountability on which the ANC government would be tested, said Vavi.
"Not that we will not evaluate leadership . but please, not now. Let's just make sure we succeed in addressing the crisis of poverty and unemployment and inequality. That's the crisis of South Africa and not anything else," he said.
"Failure to do so [means] we all get discredited . not [just] the ANC . including Cosatu, which has been asking the workers to go and vote for the ANC. That is what we are trying to avoid at all costs."
Vavi said Cosatu remained convinced that the New Growth Path document was not comprehensive in dealing with the needs of the working class.
The Cosatu meeting adopted a resolution to remain within the alliance, saying other scenarios - abandoning the alliance or forming a new left-wing political party - were not what the federation wanted.
However, it warned that failure of the alliance "remained a threat" because workers were "disillusioned".
Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini insisted that there were no differences among the federation's leaders but rather democratic discussions that allowed for differing opinions among Cosatu affiliates .
"It would be a mistake to allow a cooling-off of our relationship with the ANCYL because its leaders still have to master the art of managing disagreement at public level. Cosatu has always enjoyed a special relationship with the young lions."
More points of convergence between Cosatu and the youth league include its members being "on the receiving end of unemployment, poverty, casualisation, labour brokering and HIV/Aids, and therefore represent[ing] the most marginalised in society", the report said.
Cosatu should be careful, the report said, of tarring all youth league members with the same brush.
"We must avoid two extremes. First, we cannot afford to paint every ANCYL leader with the same brush and label … [them as] tenderpreneurs. Second, we cannot close our eyes to the reality that some within the ANCYL are driving an opportunistic programme devoid of any principle, aimed at presenting themselves as custodians of the correct congress line."
The report explains that although Cosatu helped to develop a paper on nationalisation, the youth league put the federation in an "awkward position" when it narrowed its focus to the mining industry.
"In spite of our advice [the league] kept a narrow focus on the nationalisation of the mines. This put Cosatu in an awkward position. We did not agree with this approach. In the process, the ANCYL opened itself to counterassault, as its position was seen to be an unprincipled attempt to use the legitimate demands of the Freedom Charter to save the precarious position of the black mining tycoons who were in trouble after the global economic recession."
A Vavi sympathiser said Cosatu would help the league reach greater "sophistication and strategy" in its stance on nationalisation. A possible collision between the league and Cosatu on the retention of Jacob Zuma as ANC leader was also discussed.
Malema has been critical of Zuma, suggesting to many that the league wants change. The league has also made it clear it wants to replace ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe with Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula.
Cosatu sources said the youth league was willing to compromise and give Zuma another term as ANC president partly because its leaders believe it would be difficult to unseat him, but also because of the reluctance of deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe to fight for the top job.
"[The league] is not that hard on Zuma. They make those noises about him to keep him on his toes, to show that they are watching him and to make him vulnerable. "They will let him stay," the Cosatu insider said.
"But they are hard about Mbalula. They want him to be secretary general and they won't budge on that." These sentiments were also echoed privately by those involved in the Mbalula campaign.
Vavi has been careful not to be seen to support the youth league publicly. Cosatu insiders told the M&G that his line of argument in the commissions of this week's central committee was sympathetic to the youth league's position.
They said Vavi differed sharply with South African Communist Party leader Blade Nzimande's reference to youth league "demagoguery".
"He [Vavi] argued that not all ANCYL people are demagogues. He said this because he is aware that some delegates were prepared to reject anything associated with Julius Malema.
"The ANCYL's first draft on nationalisation came from Cosatu and this irked the SACP. Why give the document to the youth league and not to the SACP as your vanguard?
"It's clear that Vavi is pushing the youth-league agenda. If you look at his report, it is critical of Zuma and Mantashe. The line he is pushing is one of regime change," said an alliance leader.
In a confidential report Nzimande prepared ahead of the central committee meeting, the SACP leader accused Cosatu of "flirting with the demagogic populist", a reference to Malema.
Nzimande also accused Cosatu of positioning itself outside the state, as a watchdog.
"In this way, the trade union movement is positioned as a left-wing watchdog over the state, the same paradigm, but with a left emphasis, as the self-appointed role of the Democratic Alliance and the media," he said.
It had endeared Cosatu to the media, Nzimande said. "In seeking to position Cosatu in this way, leading trade union personalities enjoy a great deal of liberal media glorification."
"Jim was the most vocal on the fact that Blade should come back to the party. He said to Blade, you can't be moonlighting -- the party is a shell now because all its leaders are in government.
"Now there are allegations that Blade is intervening in Numsa to lobby for Jim to be removed, causing divisions in Cosatu," the delegate said. The report painted a picture of SACP disarray in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.
"The SACP has serious challenges in the province [Gauteng] and is supposed to convene a provincial conference, which has been postponed since last year. The party is not visible and it is in the process of launching its voting district branches."
In the Eastern Cape, SACP leaders taking up government positions or moving to the provincial legislature had paralysed the party there.
"The challenge of the SACP is that almost the entire leadership of the party is in the legislature or in government as senior managers. The party has not been able to focus on key strategic issues that relate to the socioeconomic development of the province and governance. The focus of the party has been more on ensuring that its cadres get deployed in the ANC, legislature and municipal councils," the report said.
Recently at a bilateral meeting between Cosatu and the SACP, these differences were swept under the carpet and Nzimande and Vavi publicly presented a unified force.
The report emphasised that the relationship with the SACP was Cosatu's "long-term political insurance of workers" and recommended throwing money at the problem.
Cosatu was currently footing the bill for the SACP's day-to-day expenses, such as staff salaries and for administrative support, and the SACP head office was in Cosatu House in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, according to the report. "[The SACP] must rely on organised workers for material assistance and not on BEE or even white capital," it said.
Malesela Maleka, the SACP spokesperson, said the secretariat report was drafted and finalised before the bilateral meeting. "At that meeting we had a frank discussion. We told each other what irritate us about one another. I doubt if Cosatu will now hold the same view," he said.
Maleka said that SACP leaders were deployed to advance the political programme of the SACP and not for financial gain.
PLANNING Minister Trevor Manuel has come in for a tongue-lashing from Cosatu, which accused him of trying to “override” the ANC by planning to engage with ordinary citizens over challenges identified in the National Planning Commission’s recent diagnostic report.
Cosatu has attacked Manuel before, when it said he wanted to become a de facto “imperial” prime minister as chairman of the commission, and yesterday general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi renewed the attack by saying the commission was trying to replicate what the ANC had already been doing for decades.
Vavi told delegates at the third day of the federation’s central committee meeting in Midrand that the commission “will tell us what we must do (based) on what they are saying are the views of the public”.
However, this was a “contradiction”, as the ANC had been listening to the public since the 1950s when the Freedom Charter was drawn up, Vavi said.
Cosatu is especially bitter about the commission’s criticism in its diagnostic report of teachers union Sadtu.
Vavi said “it is now time to be extremely worried” about what the commission intended to do when it launched its plan of action in November. When the report was released, Manuel announced a three-month period of extensive consultation through multi-media platforms, roadshows and town hall meetings.
Vavi said the labour federation needed to discuss the issue in more detail to decide whether it would reject the entire diagnostic report or only parts of it.
Metalworkers union Numsa’s general secretary, Irvin Jim, said the National Planning Commission was “at an offramp”.
He said Cosatu had been raising concerns about the commission from the start.
“The people of this country voted for the ANC because it has its policies. Why is it suddenly that the NPC is going out to society to collect views, and people say how they must be governed?” he asked.
Jim expressed concern that the commission – and by implication, Manuel – would become more powerful than other ANC cabinet ministers.
In a document detailing resolutions on Cosatu’s living wage campaign that was handed to delegates yesterday, the federation rejects the commission’s diagnostic report as well as the government’s economic strategy, the New Growth Path.
The growth path in its current form did not support Cosatu’s living wage campaign and did not link social development and economic policy, it said.
The federation said it would draw up its own “growth path towards full employment” as a platform for its campaign for decent wages. It would also “mobilise the broader left forces”, especially within the ruling alliance and civil society.
Cosatu said an alternative growth path should protect “self-determination” by imposing exchange controls so that companies invested their profits within the country in social development, to support decent work and wages.
Cosatu’s stance on government’s growth path could cause renewed friction between the labour federation and the SACP, shortly after the two allies decided to “close ranks” to fight against “right-wing demagogic forces” – shorthand for Julius Malema’s ANC Youth League.
SACP delegates attending the meeting told the Cape Argus yesterday that the two organisations differed on the issue, with the SACP saying the plan should not be rejected, although some changes were necessary.
Rainbow Chickens is "punishing" workers for going on strike, despite efforts by the Food and Allied Workers' Union (Fawu) to continue talks, the trade union said on Thursday.
"We believe the company is acting in bad faith and in fact taking negotiations backwards by offering strikers less of an increase than those who did not go on strike," Fawu spokesman Dominique Swartz claimed in a statement.
"This is tantamount to punishing workers for exercising their legal right to strike."
About 4500 workers from Rainbow Chickens' processing and farm plants were on a national strike which started on May 26.
Workers from the Western and Eastern Cape, North West, Mpumalanga, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal plants were demanding better wages, reduced working hours and backdated payment to April 2011.
Fawu initially demanded a 14.9 percent salary increase for farm workers, and 11.4 percent for workers in the processing division, but decreased it to eight percent and 7.5 percent respectively.
The company however refused to meet the union halfway, Swartz alleged.
Intervention by KwaZulu-Natal social development MEC Dr Meshack Radebe failed to produce results.
Fawu said its members would continue striking, despite the no work, no pay rule.
Rainbow Chickens' spokesman Stephen Heath on Thursday said the company had not refused to meet with Fawu.
On Monday the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) had contacted the company and suggested an attempt at further mediation.
"This, however, requires the consent of both parties and whilst Rainbow agreed to the further mediation, we understand that the national negotiator of FAWU Sipho Khumalo refused to do so," Heath said.
"On Wednesday June 29 Sipho Khumalo indicated his agreement to returning to the CCMA, so the latest statement from FAWU is even more perplexing."
He said Rainbow Chickens' said it would increase its wage offer for processing workers from six percent to 6.5 percent and from 6.5 percent to seven percent for farm workers.
However, in an attempt to avert the strike Rainbow Chickens' tabled its final offer of 7.2 percent for processing workers and 7.8 percent for farm workers, on the understanding that this was only applicable to non-strikers and for those who went on strike the offer would remain at six percent and 6.5 percent respectively.
"This was made very clear to the union and the workers in writing," Heath said.
"At that stage about 65 percent of the workforce indicated that they did not wish to strike and accepted the company's offer."
According to Rainbow Chickens' records less than half the workforce were on strike, he said.
"...There are definitely not 4500 workers on strike."
Heath said the company remained open to discussions and further mediation but Fawu also had to be willing. (Source: Sapa)
"The NUM is saddened that as a trade union that represents over 16,000 Eskom workers, it has not been invited to Eskom's financial results announcement as major stakeholders at the parastatal," NUM general secretary Lesiba Seshoka said in a statement.
"The NUM vows to take Eskom and the [public enterprises] minister on and has called on its members to organise themselves and be ready for a mother of all strike actions at the parastatal demanding consultation, a minimum service level agreement and the fact that its management team received a 109 percent [salary] increment in 2010."
After Eskom released its financial results earlier this week the state-owned entity received wide-spread criticism for huge salary increases given to its executives, while consumers were struggling to make ends meet as tariffs went up.
Seshoka said the union was being marginalised.
"The NUM condemns in the strongest words possible the arrogance of both Eskom management and the Minister of Public Enterprises, Malusi Gigaba, in advocating a new tendency of non-consultation with the trade unions on a variety of issues at Eskom," said Seshoka.
The labour federation decided to defer further discussions on the New Growth Path (NGP) economic policy to its central executive committee after four days of deliberations found there still serious concerns held by Cosatu affiliates.
Patel was interviewed shortly after the end of Cosatu's fifth central committee meeting that takes place every three years and half way between its congresses.
Cosatu's socio-economic commission raised a number of issues about the NGP, specifically saying that it would not adequately address the triple crises of unemployment, poverty and inequality, as the policy's emphasis was on reducing the cost of business, and this was not in line with the Redistribution and Development Programme.
It said: "The NGP should be viewed as a dynamic document shaped by fluidity of the debate in the ANC (African National Congress), especially its multi-class character."
The commission went on to say that the NGP should be completely overhauled and that macroeconomic policy must be shifted otherwise the NGP would be trapped in neoliberalism.
It also made the point that the SA Reserve Bank "needs to be nationalised."
Cosatu lamented in its final declaration that 36% of workers were unemployed and that the jobs situation was getting worse.
These criticisms and the failure of the Cosatu central committee meeting to agree on a declaration of outright support has not fazed Patel, who is the champion of the NGP.
Patel understands the processes and the nature of the discussions as he is essentially a child of the unions and was at one time secretary general of the SA Clothing and Textile Workers Union.
He was also on the team that drafted the Redistribution and Development Programme, was organised labour's lead negotiator at the 1998 Presidential Jobs Summit called by President Nelson Mandela and again in 2004 at the Growth and Development Summit presided over by President Thabo Mbeki.
"If we had to make progress in really getting the economy moving and creating five million new jobs it means big changes across society and it is necessary and important that the workers understand what the issues are," Patel said.
He said what Cosatu was grappling with was developing an understanding of what the opportunities and challenges were in the NGP from the workers' and organised labour's points of view.
"Have we got the balance right? Do those balances have to be tweaked a little? Those are the issues they are debating quite robustly at the moment and it can only help us that it happens," he said.
What Patel said of the two previous job summits was that they adopted a number of growth and development agreements, but very little happened afterwards.
"In both cases excellent sentiment, but not enough joint commitment to making that work," he said. "So we are learning from that and we are encouraging discussion, debate and reflection and I rather prefer what happened here. Real discussion, flagging some concerns, identifying areas that the labour movement feels very happy with, but also pointing to areas of grave concerns."
Patel said that in government's engagements with organised labour they had agreed to deal with an issue, implement it, wrap it up and then move on.
"So as we covered an area and we reached the consensus we required, that gets implemented and we moved onto the next area," he said.
On perceived rifts between Cosatu and the ANC, Patel said there was still a very firm commitment to the alliance including a lot of calls to strengthen it and finding ways of strengthening the developmental growth path.
"And so the focus with the NGP is how to make it work, how to give it the strongest colour. Remember there is a degree of bargaining that takes place in this process. Just as in wage bargaining, people will come with a lot of feeling and concerns, but at the end of day they want to walk away with an agreement," Patel said.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) is determined to see labour brokers banned and says organised labour is facing two new threats in the form of Walmart and the Youth Wage Subsidy.
On Thursday, the final day of Cosatu's fifth central committee meeting, it issued a draft declaration that stated employed workers did not escape the effects of the recent global recession.
“More and more workers, including many working in the hall where we met (at Gallagher Estate), are employed by labour brokers on poverty pay, some for only a few days a month, with no security, no benefits and none of the fundamental rights enshrined in our constitution and labour laws. We are more determined to get labour brokers banned,” the draft declaration said.
It went on to say that even in sectors that had bargaining councils, some employers were blatantly refusing to abide by negotiated agreements, and were threatening to close factories and move to countries where workers are even worse paid.
The draft declaration labelled US retail giant Walmart as being “union bashing” and accused it of trying to squeeze workers' wages to the minimum and would cause massive job losses in its rival retail companies and South African manufacturers.
“The central committee pledged its total support to the SACCAWU (South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union) campaign and resolved to take to the streets to defend jobs and union rights,” it said.
The draft declaration went to say that the Youth Wage Subsidy threatened to cause even greater “super-exploitation” of workers, as employers would “rush to retrench older workers whose wages are not subsidised.”
Cosatu's draft declaration said the union federation had resolved to take its “Living Wage Campaign” to new heights as a means to counter the mentioned threats.
Part of this campaign would be to establish a commission that would meet four times a year to analyse and assess progress in improving workers' wages.
“We are more determined than ever to unite workers in their common struggles and mobilise solidarity action in support of workers fighting for better wages,” the draft declaration said.
Cosatu said it would also focus on the 'social wage', by campaigning for the national health insurance system to be implemented, decent and affordable housing, free education for all and safe, reliable and affordable public transport. - I-Net Bridge
It’s not over,” replied Philip Jennings, the general secretary of UNI Global, when asked by Business Report yesterday what he thought of the Competition Tribunal’s decision on the merger between Walmart and Massmart.
Jennings, who is in South Africa to address the Cosatu meeting, said: “Walmart thinks it’s over but nobody else does.”
After Jennings’ address yesterday, the Cosatu central executive committee unanimously supported a motion to begin planning steps for mass action.
According to a statement issued by UNI, Cosatu is mobilising for action and next week unions representing Massmart workers across Africa will meet in Johannesburg.
UNI Global, a Swiss-based global trade union representing 900 trade unions and 20 million workers worldwide, had provided support for the SA Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu) during its intervention in the proceedings before the competition authorities.
Jennings said that UNI and the South African unions were studying the tribunal’s reasons closely and they believed that Saccawu’s decision to submit an appeal was more than justified. UNI is supporting Cosatu and Saccawu in their preparations for an appeal of the tribunal’s decision and it is encouraging the government to also look into the deal.
Jennings said Walmart’s entry into the South African market could not simply be left in the hands of judges.
He called on Parliament to re-examine the transaction and in particular the local procurement issues.
Jennings said that it was apparent from media reports that Walmart was currently on a “charm offensive” in South Africa. “But the charm offensive has focused only on prices, Walmart needs to do something about its relationship with government and labour.”
With reference to the tribunal’s reasons for its decision to grant conditional approval, Jennings said he was surprised that the tribunal did not believe its job was to make things better but merely to ensure things did not get worse.
“There seems to be no consideration of the nature of competition that is coming to South Africa, this is an enormous player… it is five times larger than its next four competitors combined,” Jennings said. “If Walmart was a country it would be in the (Group of 20).”
Competition lawyers seem generally uncertain as to whether Saccawu’s decision to appeal the tribunal’s approval will be pursued to the end, including the Competition Appeal Court, the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court, or whether it is merely a negotiating tactic aimed at securing some ground from Walmart. One lawyer pointed out that apart from the costs, which are considerable, the unions did not have much to lose.
The conditions that have been imposed by the tribunal, which are not very onerous, would not be set aside unless Walmart and Massmart decide to cross-appeal.
Questions surround many of SA’s political leaders, but one figure who seems to have escaped the kind of gnawing critical undercurrent associated with President Jacob Zuma, for example, is Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.
SOMETIMES what isn’t is more important than what is. Questions surround many of SA’s political leaders, but one figure who seems to have escaped the kind of gnawing critical undercurrent associated with President Jacob Zuma , for example, is Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. The rumours and scuttlebutt that surround so many others in politics are notably absent from the haze of natter that surrounds Mr Vavi.
How does he manage it?
Mr Vavi’s success has come despite an outspokenness that verges on sensationalism. It exists despite the odd and seemingly contradictory positions that Cosatu is often forced to take.
He famously commented: "We are heading rapidly in the direction of a full-blown predator state in which a powerful corrupt and demagogic elite of political hyenas increasingly controls the state as a vehicle of accumulation."
That’s saying it. You would not think that anyone making that statement could possibly then go and endorse the party in power. But whenever elections roll around, Cosatu inexorably falls into line and endorses the African National Congress (ANC), and it is Mr Vavi who has to deliver the message.
His job is to manage a delicate balance. Without his "sensationalist" outbursts about corruption, his organisation might risk marginalisation. Without ANC support, his members would suffer.
The same kind of tightrope walking is evident in his relations with leaders of the tripartite alliance.
Mr Vavi is capable of warning earnestly about "right-wing demagogues" — code for ANC Youth League president Julius Malema — but bizarrely enough he remains on pretty good terms with the league, partly by endorsing many of its ideas and programmes.
Likewise, Mr Vavi feels no compunction in calling for Mr Zuma to "pull up his socks" as if he were a schoolboy, but seems ready to throw Cosatu’s support behind a second term for Mr Zuma.
Mr Vavi appears to have successfully guided Cosatu as an organisation too. Trade union membership is more or less stable, and even rising slightly in some cases. Financial problems within the movement don’t exist in a serious form, or have escaped public scrutiny.
What has not been achieved is a true blending of political programmes between the ANC and Cosatu, which presumably is what the organisation hoped to achieve by ousting former president Thabo Mbeki and endorsing Mr Zuma. It may be that such a blending is just impossible. It certainly would not be desirable. But whatever the case, Cosatu remains largely on the outside of the government looking in, almost as much today as it was during the Mbeki presidency.
The same kind of things that Mr Vavi used to say of Mr Mbeki, he now says of Mr Zuma. The same kind of arguments Cosatu had about the nature of the alliance during the Mbeki presidency played out again at its congress this week. The congress declaration criticised the Treasury, calling again for a "fundamental change in the Treasury’s fiscal and monetary policies", just as it used to complain about Treasury programmes when Trevor Manuel was finance minister.
This historical echo is either surprising consistency or a demonstration that this is a structural gap that just can’t be filled.
In many ways, Cosatu needs to retain a level of independence, like a paramour who tries to keep his or her lover interested by maintaining a coquettish distance. Mr Vavi has proved himself amazingly adept at this delicate art — sometimes by being outspokenly frank.
Mr Vavi is no friend of business, but many of Cosatu’s campaigns deserve support from business, notably its desire to stamp out corruption. Business might not share his ideology, yet it can be grateful for the element of stability and leadership within the alliance that Mr Vavi provides.
The global economy is in turmoil, with even those usually optimistic flag wavers of the present system, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, issuing warnings. What has been referred to in some quarters as the “Greek disease” is, at last, being recognised as a financial cancer afflicting the global body politic.
Yet most mainstream economists, commentators and governments still tend, like fish stranded by a fast retreating tide, to be flapping around frantically and aimlessly. The more cautious among them hoping for a slow return of the tide; most merely hoping against hope that somehow, sometime, all will return to what it was.
It has not — and the crisis, along with the search for solutions, continues. South Africa, as part of the global village, is not immune and this should have become even clearer over the past week, with the announcement of new jobless figures: the timebomb of unemployment is now ticking even faster.
As such, trade unions, as organisers of the army of the employed who are also supporters of the vast and growing army of the unemployed, have become perhaps more important now than ever before. Together, they have considerable power, both nationally and in many other regions across the globe, to affect the course of history.
As a result, unions, federations and international labour groupings are trying, sometimes desperately, to adapt to the changed and changing economic and political realities of today; to a world of surpluses where the productive environment, particularly the seas, is being destroyed and where more people are starving and unemployed than at any other time in human history.
These circumstances are forcing trade unions to adapt in order to remain relevant and to retain their ability to use what economic and political power they posses. And they continue constantly to have to deal with bribes, blandishments and bullying from governments, political parties and business.
Against this background, it was logical that the domestic media focus over the past week was on the Cosatu central committee meeting at Gallagher Estate. Cosatu, as the numerically largest constituent in the governing ANC, is, potentially, the real kingmaker since it remains tied to the ruling party while, at the same time, giving precedence to the SA Communist Party.
The deliberations, declarations and decisions at the Midrand meeting reflected the changed situation in which Cosatu and its affiliates find themselves; they signalled a serious searching for a means to be more relevant in the months and years ahead. The same is true of the other unions and federations.
Over recent months there has been considerable soul searching within the broader labour movement. Some of this has resulted in another attempt by the smaller federations to unite, and perhaps to bring aboard one of the country’s “Big Five” unions, the independent, 210 000-member, Public Servants Association (PSA).
Yesterday (subs: Thursday) two of the independent federations — the Federation of Unions (Fedusa), the National Council of Trade Unions (Nactu) met to try to resuscitate the stillborn South African Confederation of Trade Unions (Sacotu). The PSA is closely following the discussions and informal talks are continuing with the Confederation of South African Workers’ Unions (Consawu) in which the Solidarity union is the major player.
But unity, in and of itself, is not seen as a solution; relevance is the key. This was a debate that surfaced in Pretoria on Friday last week at the congress of the SA Onderwysers Unie (SAOU) that, like all unions in the country, has its name registered in English. At a bureaucratic level, therefore, the SAOU is the SA Teachers’ Union.
A Fedusa affiliate, the SAOU came into the new dispensation bearing the segregationist legacy of the past: white, Afrikaans speaking and Christian. But it was — and remains — a highly efficient and effective trade union that has grown by nearly 2 000 members in the past year to a record 30 109.
This is the union that received a recent accolade from ANC secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe when he castigated members of the major, Cosatu-affiliated SA Democratic Teachers’ Union. Mantashe maintained that Sadtu was “less committed than the SAOU”.
He was referring to the fact that schools where SAOU members were prominent tended not to be dysfunctional. And he was also aware that the SAOU had provided training and upgrading workshops for thousands of educators who were not members of the union.
So far, this year, for example, the SAOU has provided one-day courses on aspects of the curriculum for 9 860 teachers as well as courses on school management for 3 000 principals in Limpopo. These are, for the most part, held in school halls, so reducing costs.
One of the reasons for the fact that many — often most — of the teachers attending are not SAOU members is a reflection of the changed circumstances in which this union now finds itself: the overwhelming majority of SAOU members now teach an overwhelming majority of the children of the previously disenfranchised majority. And 54 per cent of SAOU members work in schools where Afrikaans is not the medium of instruction.
The racial barriers have gone, but the linguistic and religious remain. As such, the SAOU is still, to a large extent, a union catering for Christians whose mother tongue is Afrikaans.
But, as union president Dr Jopie Breed warned the congress: “We cannot function as an island.” The primary identity of SAOU members, he added, was as trade unionists. He implied inclusivity: the union as a home for all.
This is the fundamental principle of trade unionism: that unions are the primary organisations of workers as workers, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, language, religious or political belief. As most of the independents are concerned, this applies as equally to Cosatu and its affiliation to the SACP and ANC as it does to the SAOU.
Unity in diversity is the accepted principle. The argument is that it should be fully put into practice. A question perhaps of adapt, fragment or fade away into irrelevance.
The ANC knows this; after all, ANC leaders shaped the democratic deal we signed off on in 1996. That, no doubt, is why the presidency has now agreed to regularise the extension of Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo's term of office by an Act of Parliament. That should help secure the separation-of-powers principle and prevent serious embarrassment for the court.
Unfortunately, chief state law adviser and Secrecy Bill apologist Enver Daniels seems incapable of understanding this position and advising his client accordingly. As for the spooks, they can't be expected to understand. They aren't programmed that way.
Time then to stop the self-congratulatory backslapping. There is a mountain still to climb.
Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)
Congress of South African Trade Unions
1-5 Leyds Cnr Biccard Streets
Tel: +27 11 339-4911/24
Fax: +27 11 339-5080 / 6940
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