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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Speeches

Speech delivered by COSATU President at the Collective Bargaining Conference of SACTWU

19 March 2016

Comrades, this collective Bargaining Conference is taking place at a time when the federation has taken giant step to move away from a period in which we had been engulfed by a dark cloud of divisions and despair. We are now stepping into a bright day of unity with high temperatures caused by battles for workers issues.

Employers and Monopoly capital are having sleepless nights because they have calculated that by this time COSATU would be a thing of the past. They had long written our obituary some have even funded books on what they call COSATU crisis to sign off our existence. To their surprise everyday they receive news that COSATU is moving from one great victory to another.

Our enemies would like to have people believe that we are weak but they do not tell society about information which is public knowledge that since the 11th Congress alone we have been involved in serious working class policy battles which in amongst others include 20 sectors.

Amongst other sectors are:

  1. Labour market: focusing on Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Act; Employment Equity Amendment Act; Employment Services Act; Labour Relations Amendment Act; Labour Relations Amendment Bill (Democratic Alliance MP’s Private Bill); Labour Laws Amendment Bill; National Minimum Wage and Labour Market Stability; Public Holidays and Religious Leave; Unemployment Insurance Amendment Bill.
  2. Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries: focusing on Veld Fire Amendment Bill; Forestry Amendment Bill.
  3. Basic Education: focusing on Minimum Norms and Standards for School Physical Infrastructure; Scholar Transport Policy.
  4. Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs: focusing on Monitoring, Support and Intervention Bill; Traditional and Khoi San Leadership Bill.
  5. In Economic Development: focusing on Infrastructure Development Act. Energy: focusing on ISMO Bill and Eskom Act.
  6. Environmental Affairs: focusing on Climate Change – COP 21 and Nuclear Energy focusing on National Environmental Management Amendment Bill.
  7. Health: Focusing on Medicines and Related Substances Amendment Act; National Health Insurance.
  8. Higher Education and Training: focusing on Higher Education and Training Laws Amendment Act; Further Education and Training Act; Community Colleges Policy and Higher Education Amendment Bill.
  9. Home Affairs: focusing on Border Management Agency Bill. Migration Regulations focusing on Refugee Amendment Bill and Act; Violence Against Foreign Nationals. International Relations and Cooperation focusing on Foreign Service Bill.
  10. Justice and Correctional Services: focusing in Criminal Law (Sexual Offenses and Related Matters) Amendment Act; Criminal Matters Amendment Bill; Magistrates Amendment Act; Maintenance Amendment Act; Sexual Offenses Court Regulations; Traditional Courts Bill.
  11. Mineral Resources: focusing on Mine Health and Safety Amendment Bill; Mineral Resources and Petroleum Development Act and Gas Bill.
  12. The Police: focusing on Critical Infrastructure Bill; Fire Arms Amendment Bill; Private Security Industry Regulation Amendment Act. Public Service and Administration’ focusing on Public Administration Amendment Bill.
  13. Public Works: focusing on Expanded Public Works and Community Works Programmes; Expropriation Bill.
  14. Rural Development and Land Reform : focusing on Extension of Security of Tenure Amendment Bill; Restitution of Land Rights Act.
  15. Social Development: focusing Disability White Paper.
  16. State Security : focusing Protection of State Information Act.
  17. Trade and Industry : focusing on National Liquor Policy Review; Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill; Special Economic Zones Regulations.
  18. Transport : focusing on Merchant Shipping Amendment Act; National Land Transport Amendment Bill; National Road Traffic Act Regulations; Rail Way Green Paper; Road Accident Fund Amendment and Road Accident Benefits Schemes Bills; Transport Laws Amendment Act and Regulations (E Tolls).
  19. National Treasury: focusing on Employment Tax Incentive Act; National Budget; Retirement Reforms.
  20. Women’s Affairs: focusing on Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill.

Those who write these books cannot even tell a simple truth which is public knowledge that in the Department of Labour’s Report on Industrial Action 2014 which shows that over the period 2009 to 2014 there has been a constant increase in the number of reported strikes. For an example in 2009 we had 51 strikes; in 2010 we had 74 strikes; in 2011 we had 67 strikes; in 2012 there were 99 strikes and in 2013 there 114 strikes. All of these strike actions are accounted for by COSATU affiliates. For example, in 2013, almost two thirds of all working days lost to industrial action were due to action taken by COSATU affiliates including: NEHAWU 6%; NUM 17%; SATAWU 25%.

They cannot even recall the most publicly reported COSATU marches that we have taken up as a federation which do not include those taken up by various COSATU affiliate.

They cannot believe that it is COSATU that has stopped the implementation of taxation laws amendment Act. Even as they postpone it, we have said even that is not enough because our demands have not been met.

Therefore our position remain that we reject the piecemeal approach to retirement reforms.

We demand a total scrapping of this legislation to allow genuine engagements as agreed in the past until there is agreement by NEDLAC constituencies and called on government to release the Comprehensive Social Security & Retirement reform paper without any further delay to be tabled for engagements NEDLAC.

Retirement Funds are a differed wage of workers. Neither government nor employers have any business of interfering.

We reject the notion that workers, black workers in particular can’t manage their financial affairs. This is not only an insult to workers but smacks of racism. We established provident funds precisely to cater for our retirement.

As COSATU we are focusing on what matters to the workers and as we speak the UIF Amendment Bill has finally been adopted by the National Assembly's Portfolio Committee on Labour.

This is a bill on which we have spent a great deal of time pushing the Department of Labour to process, since 2013.

It is a progressive bill which will see billions of rands of UIF funds channeled to workers by increasing UIF benefits from 8 months to 12 months, increasing maternity leave payments from 54% of income to 66%, including mothers who had miscarriages in the third trimester and stillborns under maternity leave, empowering the Minister to set special regulations for domestic workers for maternity leave, covering reduced time workers under full time benefits etc.

We also managed to have removed from the bill controversial sections that Department of Labour had brought into it after the Bill had left NEDLAC , for an example , the a clause dealing with abortion.

We have been able to force government and business into negotiations for a legislated Minimum wage and we will soon be taking to the streets if business continues to think that they will perpetually lock us into negotiations without any end.

We have also been able to force government to release a white paper of the National health Insurance and our focus is on winning the battle of getting the NHI implemented in our life time. We will fight any attempt to delay implementation of the National health Insurance.

Our focus is on implementing both the Special National Congress and the 12th national Congress Resolutions. The Special National Congress said we re- affirm the character of COSATU as a militant and radical federation of trade unions, which is class oriented and that COSATU is not a political party.

Workers said that our federation must remain occupied with broad social and political issues, as well as the immediate concerns of its members. It must continuously strive to remain a social force for transformation.

COSATU’s influence on society must remain based on its organised power, its capacity to mobilise, its socio - economic programme and policies and its participation in political and social alliances.

We are saying that COSATU must remain committed to worker control and democracy, and to maintaining its independence being conscious of the dangers of being co-opted by employers and politicians.

As delegates to this Special National Congress we instruct that COSATU must remain conscious about striking a balance between the immediate concerns of its members to the need for ‘stability’ and ‘national development’ without subordinating each to the other.

COSATU must remain a worker controlled federation that is vigilant and which strive to avoid any possibility of being complacent, being bureaucratic and being controlled by technocrats and experts.

Comrades you meet here today at a time when the working class is facing immense attacks from domestic and international capital. Our 12th National Congress noted that the central axes of this offensive include cuts in real wages; Intensification of work periods; deregulation and increase in working hours; deregulation of labour relations; widespread casual labour, particularly among the women and young workers; Over exploitation of migrant workers.

Appropriation of labour productivity gains by capital; Increase in the retirement age; Cuts in pensions and retirement benefits; Increase in unemployment rates; Regression of social and labour rights; The denial of the right to bargain collectively and to strike.

This comes with intense political and ideological offensive even in our country which seeks to rally neo liberal ideologues around a campaign to defend the neo liberal policy status qou . This status qou is in the main the existence of monopoly capitalism which leaves the ownership and control of our economy in a few hands making it impossible to have an economy that can respond to the needs of addressing poverty, unemployment and inequality.

The concentration of wealth and the economy hampers the possibility of achieving radical economic transformation where we can ensure that transformation of the labour market fundamentally alter the power relations between the workers and the employers, in favour of the workers, and reverse the declining share of workers in national income.

The wholesale and retail trade sector is a monopoly industry, dominated amongst others by Truworths which is 50%, Foschini which is 40%, JD Group is 40%, Mr Price and Woolworths which is 20% .

Secondly we are still being bruised by the country’s policy of Trade liberalization which has led to the decimation of some sectors, and one of those sectors include the clothing and textiles, white goods and electronics, and has continued to make it difficult for sophisticated domestic manufacturing sectors such as machinery and equipment and transport equipment, to develop.

Engagements in this bargaining conference must proceed from a factual basis which will constitute the actual material basis of our strategies and tactics when we engage employers

Amongst these is fact that the South African clothing and textile industry has historically benefited from import substitution industrialisation which protected the industry through tariff and non-tariff barriers from foreign competition.

Factors such as the impact of globalisation, our accession to the World Trade

Organisation and the associated effects on trade liberalisation changed South Africa‟s trade policy to move towards export lead growth at the threshold of South Africa‟s democracy, which paved the way for increased imports from foreign countries. The opening up of the South African economy to foreign competition negatively impacted on the competitiveness of these industries.

The clothing and textile industry has been plagued by various challenges, amongst others, cheap imports especially from China (often illegal), South Africa‟s accelerated tariff reduction programme and currency fluctuations (especially the appreciation of the Rand), which culminated in factory closures and huge job losses. South Africa has since 1994 developed unstructured and uncoordinated sectoral responses to these challenges in the absence of a comprehensive industrial policy.

Currently there are 90 100 workers who are employed in the local clothing, textiles, leather and footwear (CTLF) sector. This sector provides a critical source of employment for mostly women in poorer communities. The industry had poorly trained staff, out-dated equipment and a lack of fresh investment. In the process, numerous factories in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal faced closure with thousands of jobs on the line.

The Bargaining conference must accept the As a result of this historical reality there is a government programme – the Clothing and Textile Competitiveness Programme which was introduced in 2010. It is funded by government and administered by the Industrial Development Corporation. By March last year this Clothing and Textiles Competitiveness Programme had approved 1 076 applications to the value of R3.7 billion under the Production Incentive Programme. Most importantly, the programme saved 68 380 jobs and created 6 900 new ones.

The leather and footwear industry where 22 new manufacturers invested R371 million in machinery and factories in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. These investments created more than 2 000 jobs.

Today 65 per cent of the products in Foschini stores are made locally. The K-Way factory of Cape Union Mart.

Through the Production Incentive Programme and Competitiveness Improvement Programme it purchased new state of-the-art machines which transformed their operations. This resulted in a 102 per cent surge in revenue and 20 per cent increase in operational profit. Importantly, expenses as a percentage of revenue decreased from 10.1 per cent to 9.7 per cent. Machine downtime declined from 2.1 per cent to 1.6 per cent while absenteeism decreased from 4 per cent to 3 per cent.

Another intervention government introduced was the new Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act. This policy ensured that all government tenders for the sector stipulated local content - that manufacturing of textiles, clothing, leather and footwear be sourced locally. If not, the Department of Trade and Industry is required to provide supporting letters confirming the non-availability of those raw materials locally before a company can source abroad.

In response to the flood of cheap clothing imports government increased the import duty on clothing to 45 per cent in line with World Trade Organisation regulations. In tandem we improved our monitoring of imports to ensure compliance to reduce unfair and illegal imports.

The last Quarterly Labour Force Survey (3rd Quarter 2015) shows that employment in this sector rose by 1.8 per cent over a 12-month period to September 2015. This meant 676 new jobs in the clothing sector, 1 197 in the textile sector and 268 in the leather sector.

Given the fact that this sector is highly labour intensive, but it does not exhibit high value-addition, faces high import competition and if supported sustainably, has potential to earn the country some foreign exchange because of its export orientation. We must continue to work closely with government to ensure that interventions in this sector focused on ways to raise value-addition through, for example, technological upgrading and skills development, protection through trade policy instruments and local procurement.

In other words this bargaining conference must answer a question to what type of radical changes are required in the sector as part of ensuring that the country unleashes the potential of this sector.

This bargaining conference must also relate to the resolutions of the COSATU Bargaining Conference held in 2013 after the 11th National Congress in which on amongst others we agreed to ensure that in all our bargaining we should include the following demands;

  1. A key bargaining struggle is in the area of gender
  2. We agree to close the wage gap from top to bottom but also in the same bargaining unit
  3. Establish a standard set of demands for all affiliates which they can then adapt or add to – this will help us build solidarity and struggle systemically
  4. All for multi-tier bargaining – agreed upon areas nationally and take some to the plant or shop floor level to keep members mobilised
  5. We must move away from bargaining councils only covering lower levels of workers
  6. Study the changing evolution of sector and outsourcing of production and the presence of different workers and unions in the same work place – need co-operative processes – restructuring of the economy needs more detailed study
  7. We must come back to the issue of a living wage as the national minimum wage minus a social wage can see the wages being spent on those areas that should be provided for in a social wage
  8. We must be better informed by research that deals with the politics of the bosses or employers who in the manufacturing sector argue profit losses but do not expose parallel wage profit increases
  9. The struggle for new collective bargaining systems is not delinked to a new macro-economic framework and the other policies in trade and industrial policies so that we protect the industries affected by the global capitalist crises
  10. Go back to the campaign on executive salaries and profits and shares
  11. The introduction of comprehensive, legislated, wall-to-wall centralised bargaining in all sectors of the economy, through appropriate amendments to the LRA
  12. Enforcement of an upper limit of a 40-hour work week across the board
  13. Taxation of firms that pay below the statutory minimum wage, and the distribution of such tax proceeds back to the workers concerned
  14. Tax reform to target executive pay and to set targets to close the apartheid wage gap
  15. The Department of Labour must set targets and timeframes to extend maternity leave and all other leave benefits to all workers, taking into account the fact that we are almost two decades into democracy
  16. Extend social protection and ensure that there is an income floor below which no South African worker or household should fall
  17. Set targets for the reduction of “low-wage” employment, through the introduction of solidarity measures in wage formation, using targets for collective bargaining, the setting of the National Minimum Wage, deployment of state levers such as procurement, and state incentive schemes, and a strengthened Employment Equity Act. This should be an integral part of realising our demand that the income gap between the highest paid and the lowest paid should be at most 16:1. We will engage with government on a comprehensive national wage and income policy.
  18. 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.
  19. 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
  20. We need to relentlessly fight the apartheid wage gap!

We want SACTWU to remember that the fundamental strategy of bargaining is not just ideas but workers and not just workers in general but the united numbers of workers organised under SACTWU who can take up the battle if employers become intransigence. The most fundamental question to be answered by this bargaining conference is whether we have such a united numerical force as SACTWU? If not what must be done?

Our call, is that this bargaining Conference must come up with ground breaking resolutions in line with our call for radical economic transformation.

We wish you all the success. The test of the correctness of our resolutions must be mandate from workers and this must guide our deliberations