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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Speeches

Speech Delivered by COSATU President, Comrade Sidumo Dlamini at the 2015 National May Day Rally held at Curries Fountain Stadium, Durban in KwaZulu-Natal on May 1

1 May 2015

The President of the ANC comrade Jacob Zuma
The General Secretary of the SACP comrade Blade Nzimande
The President of SANCO comrade Richard Mdakane
The entire leadership of COSATU in KZN from all levels led by comrade Beauty
The leadership of the alliance present here today
The members of COSATU, comrades and activists of our movement

We want to welcome you in this historic event which is an expression of the victory of workers against employers not only in South Africa but all over the world.
We also want to welcome in our ranks a new union LIMUSA which has been recently admitted by the CEC as a new COSATU.
This is a home, the hope and leader for all metal workers in South Africa.
We have come here today to declare as comrade Elijah Barayi declared 30 years ago when COSATU was launched here in Durban that “we have to make it clear to all, that a giant has risen which will confront all who stand in its way, as COSATU will not stand for defeat” .
Today we have come to declare that from today moving forward our main focus is going to be on our real enemies, the employers.
We will not waste our time focusing on those who want to make their name and gain popularity by competing with us.
Thirty years ago when COSATU was launched here in Durban, there was another federation which wanted to compete with COSATU and its strategy included violence and intimidation against workers.
It is you the workers of this country who drew a line on the sand to defend your federation and you defeated them.
As we meet here today, there is an attempt by some to defocus our attention from workers issues and spend our time talking about them. We must refuse. Our focus today is on workers.
We will defeat them as we defeated apartheid unions and federation which were formed to destroy COSATU.
This May Day is for the millions of ordinary workers – employed and unemployed, within and beyond the borders of our country.
This May Day is for the workers who on a daily basis wake up to brave the dangers of the dark morning and night to face the chilly winter travelling to work or to seek employment with only one thing in their mind – to earn an honest living so that they can put food on the table for their families, so that their families can dress, have shelter and so that their children can have money for transport to school.
This important historic day is about those workers who travel unmeasured distances to the darkest belly of the earth to produce the wealth which keeps the engines of our economy running and still earn peanuts.
We stand here today inspired by the fortitude and endurance of those who have nothing to lose but their chains.
We stand here today inspired to build on the commitment of the working class who against all odds continue to occupy the front ranks in the struggle for their total emancipation.
We gather here today, to make a statement that we are ready for war against employers.
We will enter into this war inspired by those who walked this road before us, the stalwarts that laid the foundation for us.
They have left us with a great sense of responsibility towards the Federation and indeed our country. We remain inspired by among others Bill Andrews, Moses Kotane, Dora Tamana, Chief Albert Luthuli, J La Guma, JB Marks, Lilian Ngoyi, Francis Baard, Vuyisile Mini, Poobie Naidoo, Ruth First, Oliver Tambo, Alpheus Malivha, Chris Hani, Joe Slovo, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, Moses Mabhida, Stephen Dlamini, Harry Gwala, Lawrence Phokanoka, Elijah Barayi, Mzala Nxumalo, Thozamile Gqwetha, Jabu Ndlovu, Mbuyi Ngwenda, Violet Seboni the list is endless, and indeed Nelson Mandela
It is because of their legacy and the glorious history that defines our Federation that the nation expects us to play a decisive role in this current phase of our democratic dispensation.
We have come here today to declare War to our class enemy and unity amongst the working people!
This May Day is not only about celebrating the victory of workers over the tyranny of employers but this is also a moment which we must use to ask ourselves a few pressing questions that deserve frank and urgent answers.
Have we as members and as collective leadership done enough to protect the legacy of our forbearers?
What is it that has gone wrong which needs to be corrected?
In all the answers that we will give to these pressing questions, one common answer will emerge and it is the fact that COSATU is a federation of trade unions.
We are not and we will never be a political organisation.
Therefore we exist first and foremost to put our energies and resources to engage in struggle against employers focusing on workers issues in the workplace and for those workers who remain unemployed.
That is what we are about.
We are about the worker whose family goes to bed without food because no one in the family is employed
We are about a worker who is employed but does not receive a salary or a wage which is equal to the value of his or her work.
We are about a struggle for a living wage!
We are about fighting to wipe to extinction the parasitic labour brokers
We are about a worker, who has been unfairly dismissed without anyone to represent him or her.
We are about fighting to ensure that farm workers, workers in the hospitality industry , workers in the taxi industry enjoys the benefits which comes with the new amendments in the labour laws.

All of us gathered here today have a responsibility to make employers have sleepless nights in every workplace where there is a COSATU union.
Our demands are clear:

We want employers and government to know that we will fight to the bitter end to protect our hard won and constitutionally guaranteed Right to Strike.

We want to warn those who think they can take this right away to think again.

We will not compromise an inch on this right!

We want a legislated National Minimum Wage as our ANC has made a commitment in the manifesto.

We will not accept any delaying tactics by employers.

We want a National Minimum Wage now!

We want our government to link skills development and training with career-pathing as part of the employment equity targets; skills development and training should lead to upward mobility of the workforce.
We will work to combat the suppression of young people’s talents, especially African graduates, who are made to do jobs that do not assist in sharpening their skills
We demand that our government should abolish e-tolls in Gauteng and not even think about introducing it in other provinces.

We want all employers to know very clearly that we will defend Centralised Bargaining with everything we have. In sectors where there is no centralised bargaining we want employers to know that we want it now!

We demand that our government as an employer must immediately conclude the current negotiations in the public sector and public sector workers must be given what is due to them.

We demand all employers including our own government as an employer and as a protector of human rights to know that workers of this country demand Equal pay for the work of equal value.

We have seen Black and African workers being set against each other, as COSATU we want our members and all workers to know that a worker cannot be an enemy to another worker regardless of his or her nationality.

Our enemy is one and it is the employers who exploit us. It is capital who uses other workers as scab labour during strike action.

Our enemy is those employers who exploit the desperation of those workers who come from other countries and pay them less compared to the wages demanded by South African workers.

Our enemy is those employers exploit farm workers, who pay peanuts to workers employed in restaurants that clock in the dark hours of the morning and knock off in the dark hours of the night to become prey to criminals as they look for transport at night.

Our enemy is those employers who exploit drivers and other workers in the taxi industry.

We are very clear that we want workers in all identified sectors where there are vulnerable workers to enjoy full workers rights as written in the new labour laws amendments.

We will be working with the CCMA to train workers about their benefits from these new labour law amendments.

Comrades, we must defend COSATU and the best way of defending COSATU is to serve no one else but workers

We want truthful leaders in our unions.
We don’t want leaders who pretend to be militant and speak against corruption during the day and practise worst forms of corruption during the night.

We don’t want leaders, who sound militant and super heroes of workers during the day and yet they are businessman and woman during the night.
We don’t want leaders, who sound militant when they speak and use that militancy to change unions into their own property and hide their own corruption.

We don’t want leaders who serve in unions with an eye to hold political office and even go to Inkandla and plead to occupy political office and when it all fails speak ill of our organisations and leaders.
We want leaders who respect the decisions of their own organisation. In our organisations, no one deploys himself or herself.

Everyone is deployed by the organisation for all types of tasks including serving in government but no one decide where to be deployed.
That is the discipline of our organization

As COSATU our decision to have our leaders serve in the ANC and in government is based on our 2015 plan.
Those leaders did not go to Inkandla or to Luthuli House and asked to be deployed.
It is based on our own decisions and their own participation in the structures of the movement.

When they occupy their positions of deployment we support them and when they compromise and undermine workers interests we fight them as we do to anyone who dare to trample on workers’ rights and interests.
We want leaders, who are ready to sacrifice without counting the cost.
We want leaders, who respect the collective leadership and decisions.
We want leaders, who are always ready to subject themselves to the discipline of the organization

We want leaders, who are prepared to stand firm in defence of the principles of our federation
We don’t want union leaders, who serve in order to have access to workers monies in the investment companies.
We want leaders, who can be trusted by workers and not abuse the trust given to them by workers.