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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements

Declaration of the COSATU International Gender Conference on Decent Work

15 June 2015

We, the 80 delegates gathered here at St Georges Hotel on 09-12 June 2015 convened under the theme : “decent work : Build a Comprehensive Policy Environment for Women Workers” coming from: COSATU Affiliates; Provinces; Gender Structures; Fellow Federations; Partners; Labour Servicing Organisations (LSO’s) do hereby adopt this declaration.
1. We have noted that:
a. Whilst women‘s access to employment is increasing; working conditions have been increasingly becoming more unbearable for women workers.
b. Increasingly, women’s work is found in precarious, unprotected sectors where they do not enjoy any employment benefits such as casual work, temporary work, contract work and labour-brokered employment.
c. Large numbers of women still continue to provide the bulk of reproductive and care work absolving the state and the capitalists of any investment on the unpaid work that keeps the economy alive.
d. The apartheid structure of the South African economy has remained unchanged and has created conditions where the bulk of black women in particular young African women remain outside the economy formal or otherwise spelling disaster for these women and their children.
e. The GDP is not a useful measure of development as it does not guarantee human development indicators especially the health indicators.
f. South Africa’s spending on health is skewed towards the rich with 5% spent on 16% of the population whilst 3,5% is spent on 84% of the population making our health outcomes very poor when compared to most middle-income countries
g. Women continue to bear the brunt of poor health infrastructure and health services as they have to carry the burden of caring for the sick and eschewing or missing out on productive or paid work.
h. The NHI is the only viable chance for SA women to be relieved of the burden of taking care of the sick in their households and in their communities.
We further noted that:
a. More than half of all employed workers earn less than the poverty line of R3895 for a family of five per month at R3033 earnings per month.
b. Food inflation is higher for the poor, that food workers are amongst the lowest paid and that women carry the burden of food price inflation.
c. The struggle for a minimum wage is inextricably linked to the struggle for food, water, electricity, access to land, comprehensive social security, decent work and it is inextricably linked to local community struggles.
d. Women have limited access to social security rights with exclusion of those in the informal economy, domestic work, and farm work who are not protected when they fall pregnant.

We affirm
a. The COSATU principles of
i. Solidarity
ii. Democratic Worker Control
iii. Equality
iv. Internationalism
b. The ILO principles of
i. Universality
ii. Social partnership

The conference integrated these principles in discussions on women and gender equality and adopted a plan of action. This plan of action will be based on the discussions and resolutions of the following conference commissions: maternity protection, paternity rights, child care provisions, ILO convention 103, national minimum wage and national health insurance. The resolutions listed below will explain the main points of action proposed by delegates.

3. Commissions and key action areas
3.1 Maternity paternity rights, child care provisions, and ILO convention 183
We support the COSATU submission on current labour law amendments proposing 10 days paternity and adoption leave and that all parents irrespective of family status have the right to access maternity leave and associated benefits.
We demand fully paid maternity leave for a minimum of 6 months, with a view to progressively increasing this and additional paid leave made available for ante and post natal care for both parents.

Maternity benefits should be made available to all categories of workers with no exclusions.
Maternity benefits should be paid from a stand-alone maternity fund, embedded within the UIF mechanism, to which the state contributes. Employers’ contribution to the UIF mechanism should increase to 2%. The UIF surplus should be used to offset the fund.
The state should establish a separate social assistance fund for unemployed pregnant women and teenage mothers.
The BCEA Code of Good Practice for Pregnancy should be made compulsory, and should include areas that are left out such as the provision of breast feeding facilities.
Provision for child care leave should be extended up to the age of 4 for children with special needs and a stand-alone child care leave provision of 10 days annually introduced, for male and female workers.

We will revive the campaign for child care in the workplace taking into account the different workplace and sectoral dynamics. Where needed, community-based child care facilities and transport measures should be subsidized by the Department of Social Development and employers.
Our call for these measures will be spearheaded by our demand for the urgent ratification of ILO Maternity Protection Convention 183, and the undertaking of a gap analysis of current legislation to identify further areas for law reform and costing implications.
We will roll out political education, outreach and community awareness interventions, to build understanding and support for the ratification of the ILO Convention 183 and maternity, paternity and child care provisions. We will strengthen our partnerships with local, regional and international stakeholders to achieve the ratification of this Convention and necessary labour law amendments.
Achievement of these demands and campaigns should be enforced through collective bargaining and organising.

3.2 National Minimum Wage
Gender equality is at the heart of the minimum wage campaign and is important for advancing women issues such as equal pay for work of equal value must be taken into account.
Delegates commit themselves to go back to union structures with the intention of arriving at a mandated figure for a national minimum wage, and to Implement the following agreed points for National Minimum Wage Campaign: roll out of workshops on the basis of organising and mobilisation of workers ; Ensure that the issue of NMW is discussed at all COSATU and affiliate shop stewards Councils; Call for a national Day of Mass Action on the NMW for example the Decent Work Day to popularise and conscientise workers. Create platform of engagement for a Minimum Programme across federations and the Alliance. Linking the campaign for food security to national minimum wage campaign.

3.3 National Health Insurance
We demand that the state regulates the private sector effectively when the National Health Insurance is implemented. The recommendations of the current inquiry into healthcare costs must compliment the implementation of NHI. Furthermore, we reaffirm our commitment to migrate from the current private sector-led medical benefit system. Delegates also agreed that public funds should be used for improving public facilities instead of expanding the private sector. Comrades also agreed that all affiliates must have internal discussions on the future of the private sector in the NHI.

Moreover, we reaffirmed our congress resolutions from 2012 on how to finance the National Health Insurance. Revenue should be generated from a system of progressive taxation, and should not include the following: co-payments, VAT and multi-payer systems. The National Health Fund must pool all existing fragmented funds in both the private and public sector.

Further, we demand that primary health care be implemented across the entire health system. The District, Municipal and School teams should function efficiently and improve access to health care for the working class. Primary health care can only succeed if we formalize the status of community health workers. Their employment conditions must adhere to all the principles of the decent work agenda. This includes absorbing them into full employment and creating clear scopes of practice. We also call on government to refurbish and reopen the nursing colleges in the country, and improve the health student throughput rates from historically black universities.

Finally, we commit to improving the health literacy of workers and the broader working class.
This will include developing a national campaign on universal access to healthcare and sharing the work on the competition commission inquiry. Additionally, we agreed on improving our monitoring and reporting of the selected pilot projects. Government must also stop outsourcing and over-haul the state procurement system to facilitate the achievement of better health outcomes.

We commit ourselves to strengthen our partnerships with international labour federation sister organizations and networks across the globe, and in particular Afrika.
We further commit ourselves to actively participate in all processes aimed at ensuring meaning to the declaration as well as mobilising all and sundry behind the plan of action arising from this gender conference.
Workers unite in the fight for the emancipation of women!