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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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  |  COSATU Speeches

Presentation by COSATU DGs Comrade Solly Phetoe to NUM National Organisers Forum on 21st November at Alijah Barayi Confernce Center


COSATU is honoured to be invited to address the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) National Organisers Forum, which is a very important part of building organisation. The Federation is aware of the challenges faced by workers in the Mining Industry with the ongoing onslaught of retrenchments and job losses and we will continue to pledge solidarity support to save the jobs of all workers.

The federation with instruction from the CC has been on the ground in fighting against retrenchment, including fighting against labour brokers; we are now pushing government to convene a national job summit in response to the economic crisis. We also have received a certificate to take the street on economic crisis and the Renewal Energy

COSATU is aware of the continued killings that are taking place in the mining sector by the vigilante unions. We are also perturbed by the deteriorating levels of health and safety in the sector.

We salute the NUM for tirelessly and fearlessly continuing to take up workers issues in the Mining Industry, including the latest demand for a Living Wage for workers in the Coal Sector. COSATU is fully behind the demand for a R1, 100.00 in 2017, 8% increase for 2018 and 9.5% for 2019. We commit to mobilise all COSATU Unions and Provinces for Solidarity Actions in support of these workers.

Workers must unite and in defence of their jobs because if we do not support each other in the picket lines, we will meet each other in the unemployment line. We also need to work together to fight against state capture and corruption including defending our federation.

The role of the trade unions is to look after the interest of its members ,the broader working class and the poor in general ;in this regard the key challenges that the federation is facing is to build strong industrial unions and fight against the enemy of the workers which is white monopoly capital.

This meeting must develop a recruitment program that must be led by the CEC of COSATU to get back our members from those rival unions that have no legitimacy.

Let us go Back to Basics

The COSATU concept of Back to Basics goes as far back as the discussions in our 11th National Congress and they were repeated in the Organising and Bargaining Conference held in 2013 that 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".

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 and says;-

"Affiliate, 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 contained in 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 have integrated the Back to Basics campaign, by leadership visits to workplaces and listening / addressing the workers grievances at the same time.

Our 2017 Organising Programme continues and is meant to close the social distance between leaders by addressing workers grievances as well as 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 Affiliate leadership and members of the CEC hit the ground to engage members on their grievances and to 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;
  • Bureaucratisation of our structures, at affiliate or federation level, by ensuring that we remain a campaigning mobilising organisation;
  • 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, and below is a reflection 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 into wage bargaining. And yet the statistics we have from the CCMA show us that only 46% of cases referred by COSATU affiliates to arbitration were won in favour of workers.

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 organisation 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 organisation 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. Shopstewards, Organizers & Educators must be given time to attend to organizational matters rather than be overloaded with CCMA cases. Most Organisers spend time doing dispute resolution instead of organizing, recruiting new members and servicing old members.
  13. 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.
  14. Every worker joining a company where Cosatu affiliated union is 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. Conducting quarterly Training and Education made compulsory for Shop-stewards with time-off for shop stewards.

The CEC 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 CEC 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 CEC 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 or favour.

The CEC was happy that the federation has spent the last 22 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 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.

COSATU wants to thank the NUM for the role you have played in ensuring that the Federation remains alive and continues with the fighting spirit as a revolutionary organization for workers. It is this undeniable consistency and uncontested record of struggle which makes members to continue having faith in COSATU. It is also the same focus 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.

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.

COSATU Programme for Phase Four last Quarter in 2017:

COSATU proposed programme to be presented to the November CEC, continues to prioritise the strengthening of COSATU engines and capacity building (revival of non functioning locals launch of young workers forums and socialist forums), through the Back to Basics campaign we will deploy leaders to do workplace visits, drive the listening campaign, recruitment drives and the "CR17" campaign. We have agreed to keep the momentum of workers developed during the successful National Strike Actions on 27 September.

The activities below are part of a build up action plan to mobilise for organisational and political campaigns which were adopted by the 6th Central Committee.

Proposed Tasks for the last three months of 2017 include:

  • Use the NEDLAC Certificate on Renewable Energy and Closure of Coal Mines to implement the "World Decent Work Day" activities during October month and continued actions thereafter.
  • Hold extended lunch break and general meetings in all work places, protected by the NEDLAC S77 Certificates we have secured. (State Capture and Corruption and the latest NEDLAC certificate on the Economic Crisis).
  • Identify Affiliates celebrating their anniversaries to address the S77 issues and mobilise for our programme to protect workers actions.
  • Convenee Campaigns Committee and National Gender Committee (NGC) meetings.
  • Continued Workplace visits by all affiliate NOBs and deployment of CEC members.
  • Convenee socialist forums by all provinces for political education.
  • Continued Recruitment blitzes by all affiliates and provinces.
  • Campaign programmes for "CR17" building up to the ANC Conference and continue the call for President Zuma to step down. To do an assessment and intensify the "CR17" campaign by going to the ANC branch meetings and leading discussions.
  • Intensify the campaign for the National Health Insurance through workshops to be rolled out in all provinces
  • Draft Action Plan for "16 Days of Activism" focus on Gender Based Violence
  • Revive the Proudly South Africa Campaign (PSA) in all Provinces

As we move towards the ANC national conference, we call on all the ANC members to elect leaders who will take our country serious, leaders who will respect the workers and poor .We demand leaders who will make sure that our money or tax payers money is safe, leaders who will make sure the state capture and corruption is completely shut down and all those who are implicated in stealing our money are locked up in jail until they pay back our money.

Our call for the ANC deputy president to be the next president of the ANC, is our call and we call on all ANC branches to make sure that the ANC deputy president come back end of December 2017 as the new president of the ANC, who will respect the alliance and the people of South Africa