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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Speeches

COSATU 2016 May Speech Delivered by COSATU President

1 May 2016, Gauteng, Moretele Park

Comrades we are meeting here today to mark 121 years since the first celebrations of May Day by workers in 1895 in South Africa.

We are meeting here today to celebrate the victory of workers who waged bitter struggles under the leadership of COSATU who 29 years ago forced the Apartheid government to declare May Day as a paid Public Holiday in South Africa after bitter struggles by workers under the leadership of COSATU.

We are standing on the shoulders of giants of who came and led this giant giant federation. This year marks 52 years since Comrade Vuyisile Mini was hanged by the Apartheid regime together with Comrade Wilson Khayinga and Mr Zinakile Mkaba on 6the May 1964.

On this May Day we are reminded that 40 years ago in 1976, there was a trial which involved comrade Harry Gwala, the Lion of the Midrand in which over forty people were detained in connection with their intention to remove the apartheid government. Two of the accused, Mr Joseph Nduli and Mr Cleopas Ndhlovu were badly tortured by the apartheid police and died in the hands of the police.

On the 7th May 1980, Meat workers under the Western Province General Workers' Union (WPGWU) at the Table Bay Cold Storage go on a 12 week crippling strike which paralyses meat supply to Cape Town.

This May Day marks 29 years since COSATU launched the Living Wage Campaign In May 1987 COSATU launched its Living Wage Campaign, beginning on May Day, a Friday. To take away the sting of our victory, the Apartheid government declared the day a public holiday.

This month in the early hours of 7 May 1987, our head offices were bombed by apartheid agents who were sent by the Apartheid Minister of Law and Order Adrian Vlok. The intention was to instil fear, weakened and ultimately destroy COSATU. They failed dismally but our enemies have stopped their plans to weaken and destroy us.

In 1985 when COSATU was launched, they formed a counter federation called UWUSA which was funded by the apartheid regime, they found us prepared, we fought back and we defeated them. We had no money but we had the organisation and united workers behind the organisation.

Today 31 years thereafter the enemy is still trying the same old tricks in a different form. This time they use expelled people, who had been found to be corrupt; they use expelled people who chose to sleep with women instead of building the organisation.

They use people who did everything to be dismissed by COSATU so that they could run away from facing the charges of corruption.

It is these discredited leaders who are working hard to form a new federation that will oppose COSATU. We want to tell them, that like we did with UWUSA we will defeat them!

We know that the enemy will never rest. Some commentators and some journalist want us to keep quiet and not take about the glaring plot which is intended to reverse the gains of our struggles.

We know that the DA went to parliament to take away our right to strike and thanks to the ANC comrades in the portfolio committee who stopped them.

We know that the DA support the existence of labour brokers and they were prepared to go the courts to challenge our call for the ban of labour brokers on the basis of the so called constitutional right to trade , even if it the right to trade with humans.

As we speak now the DA has sent yet another Black puppet his name is Herman Mashaba. He is a DA puppet candidate for Johannesburg Metro. He has gone to the courts to fight for against collective bargaining.

For us as workers, U Vusi Maimane, and Herman Mashaba are nothing else but sell outs for bosses. Izincelebana zabaqashi!

They will never in their life time stand up against the labour brokers and the exploitation of workers.

We know that plans are being hatched to destroy COSATU, various projects including funding the formation of a new federation and books against COSATU.

We know that certain universities have become a hub for these activities aimed against COSATU . We want to tell you that we are on the ground , we are with the workers , we are all over and we will defeat you in the same way that we defeated the apartheid regime.

The plans of destroying COSATU are no longer a secret or can no longer be explained as a conspiracy but are now in the open and they are being driven by the expelled and discredited. We do not underestimate our enemies. We know they are being highly funded, they work with various highly resourcefull institutions who are committed to helping them

Employers and Monopoly capital are having sleepless nights because they have calculated that by this time COSATU would be a thing of the past. We have even seen books written on the so called "COSATU crisis" openly funded by the Germans. To their surprise everyday they receive news that COSATU is moving from one great victory to another.

We continue to use strike action as a weapon against employers. In 2009 alone 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. We continue to fight without compromising and employers are doing everything possible including helping towards the formation and funding of new unions and new federation. In 2014 , 2015 including this year we have had a series of protests actions in the mining sector , in the public sector , with the most recent joint mass action with the SACP in KZN. Those who say this Giant is dead must think again!

We engage both in the boardroom and in the streets! We have secured many victories in the recent past.

We have placed on the table a demand for a legislated Minimum Wage and the matter is longer whether it should be implemented or not but how it should be implemented . Business is trying to employ delaying tactics and we want to announce here today that very soon we will be going to streets to demand a date for the implementation of a legislated National Minimum Wage. The
National Minimum Wage must be implemented now!

We will not stop and we will never retreat from our demand for an effective, accessible, reliable, safe, affordable and integrated Public Transport System. We don't want E-tolls and they must be scrapped now!

We have said Labour Brokers must be banned and very soon we will be issuing a report showing the extent to which labour brokers continue to treat workers as slaves. We are saying labour Brokers must be banned. We are no longer prepared to negotiate this matter.

We fought for a Free Public Health System called the National Health Insurance and today it is no longer whether it was necessary or but processes towards its implementation. We are ready to engage on the white paper. Business must know that HNI is not for their profits but it is for the ordinary people of this country.

We demanded and fought for the implementation of a Comprehensive Social Security and today there is a process underway for the release of a white paper and we call on government not to delay the process. We want the process towards a Comprehensive Social Security to commence now!

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 channelled 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 have won the postponement on the implementation of Retirement Funds reforms based on the Taxation Laws Amendment Act. But our demands remains that we want the act to be scrapped.

The Youth Wage Subsidy was forced on us and this year we are demanding that there should be a reviewable of its impact. We are certain that it had benefitted employers and not youth. Instead the millions of young people remain unemployed despite the Youth Wage Subsidy.

The plans to destroy COSATU are not delinked from that of weakening and destroying the liberation movement as a whole and replacing it with new political pseudo left organisations.

We are worried that despite these obvious and sustained attacks directed at the liberation movement we see many of our comrades acting in a manner which reinforces this offensive. We want to call on our comrades to be careful and understand that what may appear as an attack against the President of the country who is also the president of the ANC is actually aimed at insurrection and shifting of state power back to our former oppressors.

This process may both be direct or indirect. It may take a form of weakened electoral presence in the state and assume power sharing based on coalitions. It may take the form of some pseudo left organisations like the EFF/DA alliance gaining electoral presence at local government.

It may manifest as a direct transfer of political power from the ANC to the EFF/DA coalition. We are asking our comrades all over the country to be alive to this reality and stop acting in a manner which make them to play at the palm of the hand of our enemies.

It easy to be the heroes of the media but it will be difficult to win the lost political ground and the lost state power. Ask our comrades at the Western Cape.

Let us not make a mistake of thing that the ANC can loose and regain political power. We call on our people to stand up and defend political power from shifting to our former colonisers. Let is work to correct our ANC! Let us work to strengthen our ANC.

As COSATU Let us be ready for the battles ahead

We have made strides but we have a lot of battles ahead. We need to be ready because it is going to be ugly. Employers are not prepared to give us our fare share and we should be ready to take it. We have a clear message to employers, big business and government:

  1. We cannot continue as workers to remain enslaved in waged labour, while our economy remains highly monopolised and foreign owned and also at the hands of a white minority.
  2. We are going to fight privatisation and demand the transformation of the colonial and apartheid structure of the South African economy.
  3. We are going to fight and demand decisive interventions to stem the unfolding de-industrialisation and ongoing job losses.
  4. We demand the introduction of capital controls to stem the tide of capital flight.
  5. We want a state Bank now. The process of issuing a licence of the Post Bank to function as a state bank must be fast tracked.
  6. We want the Nationalisation of the Reserve Bank. Those who are refusing to implement this policy must be removed from government. We find it horrifying that the SARB has outsourced one of its core functions, the printing of money to European countries. Money supply cannot be outsourced by any self respecting economy and we demand the immediate in sourcing of this core function of the Reserve Bank.
  7. We want a state pharmaceutical company now, we want progress report and if the comrade responsible has not done it , it means there is an intention of make NHI unworkable and if the comrade responsible is not prepared to implement this policy , the comrades must be removed from his position.
  8. 8. We want the implementation of the Alliance summit decision calling for the redrafting and fundamental overhaul of the core economic and labour chapter of the NDP.
  9. We want the review and withdrawal of the Employment Incentive Tax Act.
  10. We demand the lifting of a moratorium on the freezing of vacant posts in the public service.
  11. We want the abolition of e-tolls and labour brokers.
  12. We demand the implementation and adoption of the principle of Equal pay for work of equal value and the abolition of Apartheid wage structure.
  13. We want Treasury to ensure that the SOEs are properly funded to fulfil their developmental and decent work agenda.
  14. Our government must intervene to ensure that the SETAs deliver upon their mandates and spend their budgets to ensure that workers receive the necessary training to help them find decent employment.
  15. We want the immediate introduction of a legislated National Minimum Wage.

Vote ANC

To defend the ANC and the revolution, we need to ensure that the ANC wins decisively in the local government elections. We need to defend the ANC but the ANC should make sure its government defends the workers. Our aspirations and goals should matter and be a priority. We want the ANC to prove that it is still biased towards the working class, through action.