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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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  |  COSATU Speeches

Presentation by COSATU Deputy General Secretary Cde Solly Phetoe to the SACCAWU Sun International Shopstewards Council

17 August 2017, Carnival City

Revolutionary greetings to the Saccawu NOB's
Saccawu leadership at the regional level
Officials and shop stewards

The issue of COSATU Back to Basics campaign is not new ,it populates most of our literature. I am glad now that we have reached a stage where the implementation stage of this very important campaign. This matter comrades goes as far back as the September Commission , the 11th National Congress and also the Organising and Bargaining Conference that was held in 2013. That Bargaining Conference said;-

"This Conference repeats the rallying call of our 11 National Congress: it calls on all of us to go back to basics, focus effectively on workplace issues, organising and recruitment, deliver service to our members, and implement our 2015 Plan! It is only through building powerful, unified organisation that workers will have an effective engine to drive the changes we want to see at the workplace, in the economy, and at a political level".

The challenge of Social Distance was also noted at the conference and COSATU said;-

"First and most importantly the system of capitalism creates a social distance or stratification of society. Our task is to expose the capitalist trappings and struggle against them. We shall actively work against creation of a social distance amongst shop stewards, between shop stewards and workers, between leaders and their base, as well as a distance between the trade union movement and the most vulnerable and marginalised within the working class. Conference agreed that the key to narrowing social distance is to step up listening. But the material base of distance must also be tackled. Resource allocation within affiliates and the federation must be carefully assessed - from allowances paid to full time office bearers to the varying quality of offices and office resources".

The MAY 2013 Celebration reminds us in particular SACCAWU and its members about the racial discrimination and exploitation that was led by a corrupt family in our country during their wedding party at Sun City, Gupta's ], we remember very well that during those racial activities against our members , we warned the ANC government , that if this family is not going the dealt with , our movement and our government will be in trouble , we are calling for those who are friend to the Gupta's family including the Gupta's family to request Sun International to reinstate all workers who are dismissed for exposing the racial discrimination that was led by the Gupta's in 2013 after their leading wrongly in our national key point , COSATU Nob's with its CEC are with you to deal with this challenges that workers faced during that and today .

Sun City has been in the public for sometimes regarding disrespecting the laws of this country and we are calling the Sun International board to get in to that space and correct that including making sure that there is transformation in that big resort , all those who are against transformation must see their way , before they are called to resign or workers will forced them to do so.

Defending our rights including defending our jobs should be our campaigns until those who are retrenched by monopoly capital are reinstated including those poor workers who are retrenched at Pink n , Pay , JD group and many more who are on the way to be retrenched , that must stop and it can only stop when we have a united ‘Saccawu , united COSATU with all its affiliates fighting together against retrenchments, state capture and corruption , fight against labour brokers .

COSATU's Turnaround Strategy on Organising and Recruitment

The Turnaround Strategy Document notes that;-

"To build a sustainable organisation we need to build organisation in the workplace and amongst workplaces through the branch/local. In principle we need to address the problems of members in a manner that involves them in the solutions - the point here is how do we at the same time address workers needs and challenges AND build organisation, so that workers might solve the problem tomorrow themselves, and do not simply increase their dependence on the union office/the leader".

Recruitment, Service and Retention of membership have been identified as priority in the Recruitment Strategy that says;-

"Affiliates, Provincial as well as Local Officials - through the listening campaign, and as a first giant step towards Back to Basics - to conduct Bi-monthly visits to workplaces especially those adversely affected by breaks, rivalry, apathy and competition.
Hold workplace meetings with leadership hearing and addressing members concerns, reporting back and clarifying the campaigns of the Federation.

Keep Records of grievances compiled and collated. Close monitoring of processes and successive follow ups on redressing of grievances".

What do we mean by Back to Basics?

Part of the answer is the May 2017 Central Committee report on Pillar 2: Back to Basics Campaign - Building the fighting capacity of COSATU through Campaigns and Workplace Struggles.

Three Campaigns identified to implement the Back to Basics resolution include the following;-

  • Work Place Meetings
  • Listening Campaign
  • Recruitment, Service to members and Retention of membership.

1. Workplace Meetings

All the COSATU programmes and activities implemented must integrate the Back to Basics campaign, by leadership visits to workplaces and listening / addressing the workers grievances at the same time.

The Second Phase of our 2017 Organising Programme continues and is meant to close the social distance between leaders and members as well as bringing service to members. The deployment of leadership to workplace meetings continues. Our target is workplaces with vulnerable workers.

2. The Listening Campaign

Efforts to implement the Back to Basics campaign are coordinated through what we call the Listening "Ear to the Floor" campaign across the federation, and is coordinated and monitored through national and provincial structures.

The CEC agreed that the Listening Campaign was to be integrated into all the programmes of affiliates and provinces as part of service to members. Provinces continue to develop programmes to ensure that affiliates leadership and members of the CEC hit the ground to engage members on their grievances, and they report back to workers on CEC decisions and the key priority campaigns of the Federation.

The intention of Back to Basics through the listening campaign is meant to;-

  • Close the social distance between leaders and members, by entrenching deeper forms of accountability and worker control;
  • Stop the bureaucratisation of our structures, at affiliate or federation level, by ensuring that we remain a campaigning mobilising organisation;
  • Stop any divisive and undemocratic conduct in our unions, which attempts to undermine worker unity, or create splinter unions to be addressed.

The listening Campaign has been conducted in a manner that links it directly to recruitment programmes below, a reflection is made regarding the basis of the recruitment campaign and the actual work which has been executed so far.

3. Recruitment, Service to members and Retention of membership

The 2012 NALEDI Workers' Survey showed us that members were saying that the most important reason for joining a COSATU union was protection against dismissal and unfair discipline (38% of our members), followed by improving wages, benefits and working conditions (33% of our members). The remaining 29% of members told us that they joined the union to change society (9%), or because of peer pressure or a closed shop (5%) or because of union benefits (3%).

This tells us that we have to put our efforts first and foremost into successfully defending workers in disciplinary cases and also into delivering on wage bargaining. Our Recruitment drive is not meant for only bringing in new members and growing numbers but is to go together with Service and Retention of members.

Assessment of Implementation of the Back to Basics Campaign:

COSATU 12th National Congress did an assessment of the campaigns POA and agreed to Specific Tasks to be undertaken.

  1. COSATU Provinces working with a team of deputy General Secretaries will lead Bi-monthly visits to workplaces especially those adversely affected by rivalry, apathy and competition.
  2. All PEC and CECs shall receive consolidated report backs on the issues raised by the membership and how affiliates and COSATU provinces have responded to the issues raised.
  3. The Listening Campaign is to be integrated into all the programmes of affiliates and provinces ,as part of service to members. Provinces will develop programmes to ensure that Affiliate leadership and members of the CEC hit the ground to engage members on the demands emanating from the membership and those articulated in our 2013 Organizing and campaigns conference.
  4. Keep Records of grievances compiled and collated. Close monitoring of processes and successive follow ups on redressing of grievances.
  5. Organizers/Educators to organize tea time, lunch hour and after work meetings in a drive to enlist new members in plants/industries not yet unionized, and consolidate membership where unionism is properly established.
  6. Develop a data on the numbers of new members recruited and report on members turned into paid up membership with service and training provided.
  7. All workers demands directed at employers and the state shall be popularized and written in all workers' languages. Pamphlets, posters, banners will be produced to popularise these demands
  8. Provide training for organizers, who negotiate the Recognition and Collective agreements, including union guidelines as to the most important right or what not to compromise, how to improve on what already exists as a right under the LRA or bottom lines or formula to help and guide the settlement agreement in respect of particular rights.
  9. Develop model union agreements reflecting the diversity of situations, sectors, and employment status etc - what we need as guidelines and principles allowing emphasis to develop different kinds of organization rights agreements.
  10. Build space for workers to share views as a basis to explore their unity and to facilitate the practice of rank and file involvement, including the kind of organization they want to build.
  11. Allocate time, financial and human resources to address, specifically, workplace challenges e.g. a provision be made in the Recognition or Collective Agreements for the allocation of at least 2 hours per month for a workers' general meeting and shop stewards to utilize the time allocated for that purpose optimally.
  12. Training and education - The 15-21 paid time-off to be allocated for Shopstewards Training by Trade Unions and not Employers or Department of Labour Training. Shop stewards and workers are experts on their own workplaces therefore must be provided a platform through local general meetings and shop steward meetings in the workplaces the chance/space to share this knowledge.
  13. Every worker joining a company ,where a Cosatu affiliated union has an established majority and/or is sufficiently representative should be provided with a copy of plant level Recognition Agreement as an education tool/instrument to teach current and prospective workers about the terms and conditions of the agreement prevailing between the Employer and Employees in that workplace.
  14. Our current Shop steward education and training programme appears inadequate and somewhat irrelevant in assisting the Federation to overcome challenges of pervasive ignorance among our Shop steward cohort. We need to revisit the content of our training manuals and customize them to meet the demands of the current challenges . We must identify all the challenges and problems affecting the workers in the new labour dispensation and make appropriate interventions.
  15. Develop a new Shop Steward manual guide based on examples of how to exercise or apply Organizational rights, conduct procedure for grievances and undertake processes of dispute resolution include the new labour legislation.
  16. Conducting quarterly Training and Education made compulsory for Shop-stewards with time-off for shop stewards.

The May Central Committee {CC} has expressed contentment with the federation's process of introspection; that has led to the enrichment of the content of our Back to Basics perspective, as discussed by the 11th Congress and the 2013 Organising and Bargaining conference. The CC reiterated its assertion that the task of building a strong workplace organisation must be anchored by intensification of the ongoing Back to Basics and Listening Campaign.

We have successfully managed to translate the Back to Basics programme into a meaningful practical activity to strengthen our workplace organisation and to close the gap between the leadership and the members they lead. We shall continue to build class consciousness amongst our cadres and to wage sustained campaigns that have a huge impact on the broader policy and political landscape.

The CC meeting has also resolved to continue to visit, engage and listen to workers from their places of work and prioritise campaigns that are aimed at reducing wage inequality, improving workers retirement benefits and also ensuring that they receive better skills development and training. We shall take up this fight for better wages and improved benefits to the employers without fear of favour.

The CC was happy that the federation has spent the last 18 months, since the 12th National Congress, focusing its attention on broad social and policy issues and also addressing the immediate concerns of its members. We are gradually re-asserting ourselves as a social force for transformation and are also diligently rebuilding our organised power, including our capacity to mobilise. The activities, campaigns, meetings and congresses of the federation and its affiliates have proven that COSATU remains committed to worker control and democracy.

1. Pillar 2: Back to Basics Campaign - Building the fighting capacity of COSATU through Campaigns and workplace struggles.

The Central Committee of COSATU held in May also reported on the Four Pillars and Pillar 2 was on Back to Basics, covering Building the fighting capacity of COSATU through Campaigns and Workplace Struggles.

The Central Committee noted that the federation is emerging and recovering from a difficult period of internal organizational challenges. But despite all these challenges it can be said without fear of contradictions that since the 2015 Special national Congress and the 12th National Congress, the presence of COSATU has been visibly felt and recognized by both our friends and foes alike in all strategic centers of power in our society, particularly in workplace struggles and on strategic policy development platforms.

It is our undeniable consistency and uncontested record of struggle which makes members to continue having faith in COSATU. We have dealt with the issues facing our federation honestly and frankly because we are not trying to keep up appearances here but we are building a strong workers movement. It is this honesty and transparency that has seen many newly formed unions applying for admission as COSATU affiliates, despite the skewed, slanted and distorted media reports about the real challenges which the federation has been going through in the recent past.

As part of responding to these challenges the federation has adopted systemic programmes specifically designed plans to address them in a sustainable manner as contained in the various documents which were adopted by the CEC. These included a document tilted (a) "building COSATU Engines", which is also part of the Political Report ((b) a document titled Organisation Building whose recommendation are also contained herein.

2. The Listening Campaign

The federation has been able to reach all sectors organized by COSATU affiliates including the unorganized workers who are now joining COSATU affiliated unions.

In all the visits workers were inspired to see their own coming to listen to them and work to find solutions together with the leaders. Some affiliates did not participate particularly from the national level but the provincial leadership of unions was part of the program and indeed they have been consistently responding to issues raised by workers. There is currently a process underway to report back on the task and issues raised by workers.

Summary of issues raised by workers:

  1. Poor servicing of workers
  2. Not convening general mass meeting or workplace meetings
  3. Elected leaders of workers far from members
  4. Poor recruitment strategy or not recruiting new members
  5. Employers conniving with rival unions against COSATU unions
  6. Some employers continue to reduce union's membership without having a resignation from members.
  7. Poor wages
  8. Workers being exploited by our own government in particular the ANC deployees
  9. The issue of Labour Brokers and outsourcing is coming up in all sectors
  10. Casualisation of workers in almost all sectors but mainly in retailers and wholesalers continues for many years.
  11. Workers not being paid according to the current sectoral determination act
  12. Security and farm workers who have worked for over six months not being paid their monthly salaries
  13. Employers not complying with most of the legislations of our country
  14. In other provinces workers registered the most expensive toll gate in particular Mpumalanga and North West.
  15. The health and safety of workers is being undermined by both employers and our department of labour
  16. The issues of women being undermined at the work place
  17. Issues of housing for our members is raised
  18. Many workers still remain outside and unorganized into COSATU affiliates
  19. The union tensions or infighting makes workers to be vulnerable to other none affiliates of COSATU.
  20. The issues of the NHI is still a challenge
  21. The tax law amendments act is still a matter to be dealt with
  22. The issue of NMW is raised by vulnerable workers when is implementation
  23. The tensions within the ANC and its alliance partners
  24. Corruption
  25. Political killings
  26. The manipulations of the list during election
  27. The issue of the unemployment increasing every day.
  28. Retrenchments ongoing mainly in the mines and retailers
  29. Work overloaded in particular in the public health institutions due to government refusing to fill up vacant posts.

In conclusion, I want to remind all of you that in our document called Strengthening COSATU engine, building capacity to our entire province, all locals and building capacity to all affiliates our industrial union, it also requires all COSATU affiliates at national level, at provincial and local which include branches to be on the ground.

The current challenges we are facing today both politically, organisationally and economically require a strong organisations of the working class from all fronts ; it means having a strong SACP , strong ANC that lives up to its character as the mass based organisation and a disciplined force of the left. We need a strong fighting and non compromising trade union movement. As Lenin once said; "The strength of the working class lies in organisation. Unless the masses are organised, the proletariat is nothing. Organised - it is everything. Organisation means unity of action, unity in practical operations. But every action is valuable, of course, only because

We request all of you to join all the provincial councils and our mobilisation effort on the ground as we are preparing ourselves to fight for a national strike against those job losses in our sectors

Our call for the current deputy president to be the president of the ANC in December 2017, need all of us to be on the ground with the ANC branches and we must be united. We need to mobilise and fight to contest the ANC from those who want to steal it. We need to defend the ANC from this vulgar Guptarisation that we are witnessing.