The Congress of South African Trade Unions held a normal meeting of its Central Executive Committee from 2-4 March 2015, attended by national office bearers, affiliated unions and provincial structures.
The CEC took place within an international context in which the country is focussing on a campaign on Israel Apartheid Week. There is deepening repression, unemployment and exploitation of workers all over the world. There are recent developments regarding Cuba-US diplomatic relations in which we saw the release we saw the release of the remaining Cuban political prisoners and the process towards the restoration of diplomatic relations.
On the home front we have just received the State of the Nation Address which attempted to respond to the crisis of unemployment, inequality and the energy crisis engulfing our country.
We have just received the remains of two great heroes and the leading architects of our revolution, comrades Moses Kotane and JB Marks. As we confront the challenges of the federation we remain inspired by these two leaders of our revolution who never shirked their responsibility and who despite all odds were able to construct the trade union movement, the SACP and the ANC and the liberation movement as a whole into an oasis of hope and bulwark for liberation of our people. We will follow in their footsteps.
The debate and discussions in the CEC were characterised by a commitment to assert the supremacy of COSATU over individual leaders and to achieve unity based on the founding principles and traditions of the federation. Unity and organisation for workers is everything!
It was in this context that the CEC expressed its determination to continue to rebuild and strengthen the unity and cohesion of our federation.
The CEC noted that the federation was under attack from those who had an intention to weaken COSATU, destroy it and if it all else fails use it to pursue their political agenda.
It was in this context that all affiliates present in the CEC made a stern resolve to defend the unity of the federation.
1. Achieving unity and cohesion through visible campaigns and unity in action
The CEC agreed that whilst it is important to continue engaging in a political process aimed at achieving unity and cohesion it is clear that such unity will not be achieved through boardroom meetings alone. The unity of COSATU will always be forged in the streets through campaigns focusing on issues which are affecting workers and the working class in general.
The meeting therefore agreed that a meeting of the Organising and Campaigns Committee is to be convened urgently to decide on a programme to roll out campaigns, including:
Against racism in the work place,
On COSATU’s socio-economic demands,
Against Labour Brokers,
Solidarity with the workers involved in the public sector negotiations and other workers in the Post office, Telkom, etc who are engaged in struggle
The CEC received a moving presentation by SAFPU which argued that workers in the entertainment sector such as football players, those in other sports codes and artists were being subjected to an unfair tax regime and yet their conditions of work were not similar to ordinary workers who had secured jobs and relatively sound benefits.
We will be requesting a meeting with a cluster of ministries which include the ministries of Sport, Arts and Culture, Social Development and the National Treasury to discuss Social Security measures and a new tax regime as part of the measures aimed at addressing the plight of workers in the entertainment and sport sectors.
This will include a call to discuss modalities to have part of gate collection fees during soccer games and entertainment events being used to contribute towards workers’ pension fund. We shall also take up a campaign against agents in these sectors.
On the freedom of association and the protection of the right to organise, and International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 87, on the right to strike, the CEC received a report that the right to strike was under threat not just in South Africa but all over the world.
Attempts were being made by employer groups at the ILO to argue that although the right to strike is recognised in the constitutions and/or regulated in the labour legislation of many countries, International Labour Conventions including Convention No. 87 do not contain any express provision on the right to strike.
We will be lobbying our government and relevant ministers to raise the matter sharply at the ILO and if our plea is ignored we will work with other internal worker federations to take the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in accordance with the ILO constitution Article 37, which provides that in the event of a dispute over the interpretation of the constitution the Governing Body can refer one of more issues to the ICJ.
We held a Labour Conference in 2014 in which we adopted a declaration, which included the commencement of the process towards the National Minimum Wage. A task team of principals constituted by the COSATU NOBs and a technical Task team has been constituted. The terms of reference were adopted by the meeting of NEDLAC principals held on 21 February 2015.
In the next CEC we will be working on finalising the actual monetary figure for the National Minimum Wage
The CEC agreed that COSATU affiliates will work with the CCMA to provide nationwide training on the recent labour laws amendments. This includes the Employment Equity Act (EEA), the Labour Relations Act (LRA) and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA). This will also clarify the role the CCMA has to play in the implementation of the amendments. This work will be coordinated from COSATU head office working with relevant union designated leadership.
The next Special CEC will finalise dates for the actual action.
2. Remaining challenges on unity and cohesion
The CEC appreciated that some unions which had raised concerns regarding the expulsion of NUMSA and the convening of the Special National Congress attended the CEC. These unions know that the only way of raising their issues is within the constitutional structures of the federation. This is a demonstration of leadership and discipline founded on the principles of our movement.
The meeting condemned the decision of certain other affiliates to boycott the CEC meeting. The CEC was clear that COSATU had no structure which can exist parallel or outside of the constitutional structures of the federation and expect to be accorded constitutional recognition.
We call on these affiliates to return to future meetings to engage in a democratic process where all unions are treated as equals and where all views are given equal weight and get subjected to the same democratic scrutiny before any decision is taken.
The views of these unions can only be respected when they are raised inside the federation rather than in the media and outside the structures of the federation. We are calling on members of these unions to call on their leaders to come back to their real home COSATU.
3. On the conduct of the COSATU General Secretary in the CEC
The meeting expressed deep concern against the General Secretary of the Federation who continues to conduct himself in a manner that seeks to define himself either above the organisation or to act outside the discipline of collective leadership. He has not attended three meetings, including this CEC at which he was expected to play his leadership role.
It is the General Secretary who had written a notice convening the CEC as part of his duties to do so. It was therefore difficult for the CEC to understand why this same person would announce in the social media that he would not attend the CEC which is his duty to prepare for, attend and participate in shaping the outcome of its democratic processes, particularly given that he is aware of an agreed ANC-facilitated political process towards achieving unity and cohesion in the federation in which all affiliates are participating.
It was agreed that the General Secretary must be afforded a chance to come and explain his conduct in a Special CEC which will be convened soon.
4. Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo Forensic Report
The CEC received a report from the Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo (SNG) firm of Auditors. They were commissioned by the CEC to conduct a forensic investigation into alleged impropriety in the sale of COSATU Head office and the purchase and ownership of the new COSATU House.
They were also requested to conduct a forensic investigation into the manner in which the FSB report was handled by Kopano ke Matla and into the alleged involvement of Comrade Vavi’s step-daughter in VNS, one of the service providers to COSATU.
Such a report was concluded and handed over to COSATU and the CEC found that the report did not cover all aspects and instructed SNG to investigate the process followed in terminating contracts with various service providers and the process followed in awarding contracts to VMS.
On amongst others the report implicated the General Secretary of COSATU. It also showed that the auditors had not been able to meet with him despite all attempts they have made to secure a meeting with him.
The meeting mandated the NOBs to write a letter to the COSATU General Secretary to meet with the Auditors to provide any information which may be required.
The Special CEC will receive the Final Report and make a determination on the way forward based on the recommendations in the report.
5. Building COSATU
5.1 Ratification of elected provincial leaders
The CEC ratified the election of all the provincial leaders elected in the Free State, North West, KZN and Limpopo.
5.2 Eastern Cape
The CEC reprimanded the Eastern Cape leadership for their tendency of making pronouncements to oppose and undermine the decisions of the federation, including the decision of the 7th November 2014 Central Executive Committee meeting. The comrades explained the reasons for their conduct but the explanation was not accepted by the CEC.
The meeting was emphatic that the CEC is the highest decision making organ of the federation in between congresses and no COSATU structure has a right to oppose or undermine the decisions taken by the CEC. Provinces were there to implement decisions taken by senior structures of the federation. They had no powers to change such decisions.
The forthcoming Special CEC will also receive a report from the task team which has been tasked to work on the challenges confronting the Eastern Cape Province.
6. National congresses
The CEC confirmed that the Special National Congress (SNC) will take place in July 2015. A Special CEC will be convened soon to consider how best the dates of the SNC and thee ordinary National Congress can be properly sequenced.
7. Litigation against COSATU
Despite the president having conceded to a SNC the federation has been served with court papers. Our lawyers have informed us that the applicants are prepared no to continue with the litigation if we issue the notice, and we have committed that we shall issue such a notice in line with the COSATU Constitution.
8. Litigation on appeal by NUMSA
We have been served with court papers under Rule 53, which we have successfully contested and NUMSA has been instructed to opt for the route of amending their motion.
9. Applications for affiliation
COSATU should be a home for all workers and they are all invited to be part of COSATU, under the founding principle of One Union-One Industry. Workers not affiliated to COSATU unions are not organised. COSATU unions must continue to provide quality service to workers, which has always been a hallmark of COSATU unions.
The CEC discussed applications for affiliation from two trade unions – the SA Emergency Personnel’s Union (SAEPU) and the Liberated Metal Workers Union of SA (LIMUSA). The meeting resolved as follows:
It was noted that the scope of this union overlaps in sectors in which NEHAWU and SAMWU organise workers, so it was agreed to convene a meeting between the three unions to discuss issues concerning their scope, in line with COSATU’s founding principle of one union one industry. This meeting will report back to the Special CEC, for a decision on whether to accept or reject their application.
The meeting was satisfied that the union’s application met all the constitutional requirements in line with clause 2.1 of the COSATU constitution. It was however agreed to allow two unions to seek mandates from their structures on whether to accept or reject the application. A final decision will be taken at the Special CEC which will be convened soon.
10. Programmes and Budgets
The meeting received a report on the prioritised programmes for 2015. This was viewed against the report regarding the federation’s state of finances. The programmes and budgets were approved.
11. Post-Alliance summit task team
The meeting was concerned that the task team which was established at the 2013 Alliance Summit to discuss concerns raised by the SACP and COSATU has not been able to deliver on its mandate. It was supposed to discuss important issues including economic policy, the NDP, labour law amendments and employee share ownership programmes. The CEC agreed to reconstitute the COSATU team to this Alliance Task. This will be done as part of the process to overhaul all COSATU representatives into various committees and ensure effective planning, accountability and mandate seeking processes.
12. COSATU-SACP bilateral
The meeting received a report on the bilateral meetings held between the federation and the SACP in 2014. The meeting agreed that the federation had to take forward its decision to support and strengthen the SACP including through to availability of resources. The Deputy General Secretaries of the two formations will meet to finalise outstanding administrative issues.
The SACP and COSATU organising departments will meet to finalise the development of joint campaigns focusing on the SABC, ensuring the realisation of the radical second phase of our transition, NHI, Retirement and Pension funds and Comprehensive Social Security, racism in society and in the workplace, organisation building activities such as joint recruitment programme and supporting unions in various sectors etc.
13. ANC Lekgotla
The meeting received a report on the ANC Lekgotla and agreed that we need to find better ways to engage in such gatherings in order to have a bigger impact. We have achieved some significant successes at such Lekgotlas, winning the argument on such issues as the national health insurance scheme and comprehensive social security, yet our views on these issues are then sidelined by government. There was also concern at the number of business representatives attending the meeting.
14. International solidarity
The President of PUDEMO, Comrade Mario Masuku, continues to languish in the jails of Swaziland under the merciless monarchy of King Mswati. It has been reported that he is currently sick. COSATU NOBs will soon be visiting the comrade in the Swaziland Prison cells.
We call on all South Africans and the freedom loving people of our country to raise their voices against the Mswati monarchy and call for the release of all political prisoners including Comrade Mario Masuku.
We specifically call of the South African government to move speedily to provide medical care for the president of PUDEMO. This may include asking that he be moved to one of the South African military hospitals to receive care from healthcare facilities meant for the heads of state.
14.2 Apartheid Israel Week
COSATU will be joining million of South African freedom-loving people in solidarity with the people of Palestine. We call on our unions to intensify our campaign against Apartheid Israel. COSATU will never rest until the people of Palestine enjoy complete freedom in their motherland.
Issued by COSATU