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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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National Congress  |  Policy Documents

Programme of Action

as Adopted by the COSATU 7th National Congress

21 September, 2000


  1. The Special National Congress held in August 1999 adopted a programme of action to fight against job losses and deepening poverty.

  2. Over four million workers participated in the general strike on the 10 May 2000. The campaign enjoyed wider support to include workers outside COSATU, the progressive civil society formations and communities.

  3. Through this programme, COSATU has managed to place unemployment, job losses and poverty firmly on the agenda of South Africa.

  4. Among other achievements of the campaign is the fact that for the first time since COSATU submitted its section 77 notice there was discussion on COSATU core demands. The six-a-side recommitted to the processes outlined in the NFA. In this vein, it was used to halt planned retrenchment of 4 000 workers in Telkom. We cannot however, rest on our laurels we must defend this gain!

  5. Secondly, in Nedlac, the President's Working Group and the Millennium Labour Council there is broad commitment to engage in discussions around key priorities such as unemployment, inequality, investment and so forth. This commitment has to be translated into actual agreements on how we tackle the socio-economic challenges confronting South Africa.

  6. We note the deadlock on trade policy in the clothing and textile job summit and government's vague commitment to engage in discussions on trade policies. Nonetheless, this commitment still has to be translated into actual discussions on trade policy, particularly government's trade reform programme. Congress reiterates the position that it is dangerous to substitute trade policy for industrial policy and that where trade liberalisation has resulted in RSA tariffs below WTO levels that these tariffs should be raised to the minimum WTO levels.

  7. The main demand of the campaign: to allow workers to negotiate and strike over company decisions to retrench has however not been met. Instead of satisfying the ANC's election manifesto commitment to workers and the nation, government has revealed proposals to amend labour laws that roll back gains won by labour over decades. Linked to this are attempts to roll back workers gains in the public sector.

  8. The bosses, who previously have been keen to find an agreement with COSATU on the labour law amendments, have been stubborn and not as cooperative as before since the Minister of Labour revealed his pro business labour law reform package.

  9. Congress notes the protracted discussions on the pension fund surplus issue which has taken more than two years. During this process the BSA has opposed the legislation particularly to ensure that the surplus rest with its rightful owners the workers. We further note the raiding of pension funds by employers through contributions holidays and their continuous attempts to rob workers by repatriating the surplus accumulated over 20 years. Congress reiterates the position that the surplus belongs to members and anyone attempting to repatriate this surplus is nothing else but a thief. We believe that the negotiations must be concluded as a matter of urgency and that legislation processes be expedited.

  10. The forthcoming local government elections provides another opportunity to deepen democracy where we live and consolidate the gains scored over the last five years of democratic local government.

Way Forward

  1. The 7th National Congress delegates acting on the mandate of its 1,8 million members is determined not to allow the government to push through the amendments to the labour law and reverse workers' gains.

  2. We reiterate our commitment to develop a comprehensive campaign that looks at all elements in order to continue to exert pressure on our government and business to address the scourge of joblessness, poverty and inequalities.

  3. We pledge to make the first the phase of our continuing campaign to report back to members in every workplace where we are organised on the partial success of the campaign and the need to redouble our actions in order to maximise benefits to workers.

  4. This congress resolves to:

    1. Submit a Section 77 notice to Nedlac covering the new demands arising from the proposed amendments.

    2. Call on the CEC to develop a concrete campaign to build up towards the first quarter of next year.

    3. Embark on a protracted and carefully planned campaign, and in this vein embark on a three-day general strike in March 2001.

    4. In addition we will mobilise for one general strike per quarter of the year and other forms of protest action for as long as necessary to stop the labour law amendments.

    5. Embark on a programme to brief working class communities and ensure their active participation to the campaign.

    6. Organise and ensure that workers in particular the shop stewards and leaders put pressure on the relevant Ministers through series of pickets and sit ins in their offices.

  5. Further Congress Resolves to

    1. Support the Global Day of Action organised by the NGO movement on the 26 September 2000 calling for the restructuring of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. We call on our members where possible to participate in the planned protest.

    2. Participate in the protest action against Red Lining and the need to restructure the financial sector on the 21 October 2000.

  6. Nedlac must finalise its negotiations process on the pension surplus issue. BSA's intransigent attitude, which has delayed the negotiations must be condemned. Call on the government to accelerate the legislative process and as agreed table legislation during this session of parliament. The legislation must in the main correct the past transfers and mass retrenchments; and state unambiguously that the surplus belongs to members. If necessary COSATU must engage in action to achieve our demands.

  7. COSATU will mobilise, canvass and support the ANC's local government election campaign. The EXCO must finalise a COSATU Programme for the local government elections. We call on the alliance to finalise the local government election manifesto to add impetus to the campaign for local government. Further we call on government to announce the date of election for local government elections.

  8. Congress reiterates its commitment to the people's budget process and encourages all affiliates to participate in the Alternative Budget Initiative.

  9. Jobs Summit must be convened in all the sectors as adopted by the Jobs Summit. By the end of March 2001 all jobs summits should have been convened. COSATU should oppose mass retrenchments in the public sector and private sector.

  10. To oppose the listing of Telkom in the JSE as step representing a possible irreversible movement to complete privatisation of Telkom. To oppose the IPO process and demand that government abide by the terms of the agreement reached with labour at the NFA that the unions shall be consulted on the ongoing process of restructuring Telkom.

  11. To speed process of holding sectoral summits as per the programme of the Presidential Job Summit. To ensure that most of the sectors that have not held their summits do so by the end of March 2001.