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COSATU Today  |  COSATU Speeches

Zwelinzima Vavi’s address to COSATU Mpumalanga Provincial Congress, Witbank

21 July 2012

Provincial Office Bearers
Leaders of affiliated unions
Leaders of our Alliance partners
Congress delegates
Comrades and friends

I bring greetings and best wishes for a successful congress from the COSATU National Office Bearers and our more than two million members.

2012 is a historic year for COSATU, its allies and all South Africans. The ANC is celebrating 100 years of struggle and all three alliance partners are holding their national congresses or conferences.

If ever there was a time to grab our destiny by the scruff of its neck and make a decisive breakthrough in the struggle for total liberation, it is this year of 2012. Let us make sure that we do not let the opportunity slip through our fingers, and in particular use our provincial and national congresses to forge policies and programmes of action which will arm us for the battles ahead.

The federation is now only three years away from 2015, when the ambitious targets we set ourselves in the 2015 Plan are due to be achieved. This year we must make a frank assessment of how far we have moved and how much more we need to do.

We have adopted the main Congress theme to be ‘Strengthen COSATU for total emancipation’, with two subsidiary themes: ‘Celebrating working class contribution to the liberation struggle: celebrating the ANC centenary’ and ‘Deepening unity of the leading detachment of the working class and confronting the triple challenges’.

A key discussion will be to assess progress towards the implementation of the document “Consolidating Working Class Power for Quality Jobs – Towards 2015”, popularly referred to as the 2015 Plan, which was adopted by the 8th COSATU National Congress in October 2003.

To prepare for our 11th National Congress we organised three policy conferences on Gender and women empowerment in particular, International issues and Education and Skills. We will hold provincial congresses in all 9 provinces of COSATU. We are putting together yet another ‘state of the unions’ survey so that we look at our unions strengths and weaknesses as we assess our 2015 Plan. We have commissioned a survey of our members so that we better understand their priorities. Another survey on the shop stewards will be conducted during the month of September.

We have developed a programme to mobilise all our members on the issues that they are better prepared for to confront our challenges. We publish special Bulletins to help guide discussion in the following worker forums: -

  • Special general worker forums convened by COSATU locals (Provinces to ask locals to convene three of these between the beginning of July and the beginning of September)
  • Weekly COSATU shop stewards council meetings
  • Socialist Forums where they exist
  • Affiliate shop steward council meetings
  • Affiliate company general meetings, including in wage mandating meetings (especially on issues relating to Congress debates on collective bargaining, wage levels, minimum wages, youth wage subsidy, labour brokers etc)

What is that we are facing? Why are we restless and at times seeming very angry and frustrated? This is what the congress has to focus on and nothing else!

  • The crisis of Colonialism of a Special Type has not abated, and instead it has deepened. Unemployment among Africans was estimated to be 38% in 1995 and it stood at 45% in 2005. Overall, the unemployment rate in the South African economy was 31% in 1995 and increased to 39% in 2005. As of 2009, the rate of participation of Africans in the labour force was 52% and for whites it was 68%. Because of the continued structures of domination and exclusion, it will not be wrong to conclude that most Africans do not participate in the labour force because they are the least absorbed in employment. Among Africans of working age (between 15—64 years), only 36% are absorbed into employment whilst on the other hand, 65% of Whites of working age are absorbed into employment. Among emerging markets, South Africa has the lowest labour force participation rate.
  • Poverty incidence remains high. There is no official poverty line for South Africa. Yet, based on measures that are sensitive to household size, one study found that 57% of individuals in South Africa were living below the income poverty line in 2001, and this remained unchanged from 1996. But measures that assume individuals need R322 a month to survive show that individual poverty has declined from 52.5% to 48%. This decline is said to be driven by an increase in the number of beneficiaries from government’s grant system from 2.5 million in 1999 to 12 million in 2007. This means that 25% of South Africa’s population lives on grants, and it is evidence of the anti-working class character of the post-1994 growth path. The economy reproduces poverty, and the state throws money at this problem, without intervening to change its structure.
  • Redistribution of income has worsened against the working class. Besides the decline in the real incomes of African households between 1995 and 2005, income inequality has increased across the board. In 1995, the Gini coefficient stood at 0.64 but it increased to 0.68 in 2008. The share of employees in national income was 56% in 1995 but it had declined to 51% in 2009, i.e. there has been reverse redistribution from the poor to the rich. The top 10% of the rich accounted for 33 times the income earned by the bottom 10% in 2000. This gap is likely to have worsened, given the fall in the share of employees in national income and the global economic crisis of 2008. Approximately 20% of South Africans earned less than R800 a month in 2002, the situation is worse for Africans. By 2007, approximately 71% of African female-headed households earned less than R800 a month and 59% of these had no income; 58% of African male-headed households earn less than R800 a month and 48% had no income.
  • In 2008 the top 20 directors of JSE-listed companies, the overwhelming majority of whom are still white males, earned an average of R59 million per annum each, whilst in 2009 the average earnings of an employee in the South African economy was R34 000. On average, each of the top 20 paid directors in JSE-listed companies earned 1728 times the average income of a South African worker. On average, between 2007 and 2008, these directors experienced 124% increase in their earnings, compared to below 10% settlements that ordinary workers tend to settle at. Hefty increases were also seen in state-owned enterprises. Directors in state-owned enterprises also experienced the same rate of increase their earnings, thereby contributing to income disparities in the economy. The top 20 directors in SOE’s experienced a 59% increase in their earnings, collectively raking in R132 223 million. This amounts to R6.6 million per director, which is 194 times the average income of the South African worker.
  • Income inequality is still racialised, and has deepened within racial groups. An average African man earns in the region of R2 400 per month, whilst an average white man earns around R19 000 per month. The racial income gap is therefore roughly R16 800 among males. Black women are yet to be liberated from the triple oppression. Most white women earn in the region of R9 600 per month, whereas most African women earn R1 200 per month. The racial income gap in monthly incomes among women is therefore R8 400. The race gap is therefore overwhelmingly severe among males. The gap in monthly income between African men and White women is R7 200. In addition, 56% of Whites earn no less than R6 000 per month whereas 81% of Africans earn no more than R6 000 per month. These income disparities are deeply connected to the social relations of production at the factory floor and other places of work, and macro-policies that violate the historical commitment to redistribution. Inequality has increased the most among the Coloured population, by 9 percentage points, whereas among Africans it has increased by 1 percentage point between 1995 and 2008.
  • The means of production remain concentrated in white capitalist hands: Estimates of black ownership of JSE-listed companies range between 1.6%and 4.6%. The JSE is still dominated by few large firms; 50% of JSE is account for by 6 companies and more than 80% is accounted for by large banks and companies engaged in the core of the minerals-energy-complex. Crucial sectors in the economy continue to be dominated by a few large conglomerates with cross directorships. These conglomerates are vertically integrated and therefore limit entry into the economy by smaller firms. In addition, there has been a rapid increase in foreign ownership of these conglomerates. This has served to consolidate their domestic power through their global networks. Traditional South African conglomerates, such as Anglo-American have undergone significant restructuring, encouraged by opportunities to globally diversify their operations, thanks to GEAR’s neo-liberal financial liberalization. In addition, little by way of black ownership and worker control has been achieved over the past 18 years. Almost all the top 20 paid directors in JSE listed companies are white males.
  • Imperialist domination has deepened over the past 18 years and the ownership patterns have moved further away from domestic ownership, especially by the black working class. The financial sector is dominated by the banking sector, which has 4 large privately owned banks (ABSA, Nedbank, FNB and Standard Bank), two of which have significant foreign ownership. ABSA is 56% foreign-owned whilst Standard Bank is at least 40% foreign owned. The wholesale and retail trade sector is dominated by two firms: Shoprite and Pick ‘n Pay, which constitute 66% of the markets share. The entry of Walmart will change the picture on foreign ownership. Even before Walmart’s entry, Massmart was 60% foreign-owned, Shoprite is 35% foreign-owned, Truworths is 50% foreign-owned, Foschini is 40% foreign owned, JD Group is 40% foreign-owned, Lewis is 30% foreign-owned, Pick ‘n Pay has less than 10% foreign-ownership, Spar under 20% and Mr Price and Woolworths 20%. Manufacturing is dominated by two sectors: petro-chemicals and basic iron and steel, which are dominated by SASOL and Arcelor-Mittal, which have significant foreign-ownership. SASOL is about 30% foreign-owned and Arcelor-Mittal is 65% foreign owned. More than 80% of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange is account for by the large banks and the few companies in the traditional sectors: mining and energy. All these companies are white, private, capitalist-owned and they are increasingly being foreign-owned. The Second Transition will be a hollow slogan if it does not address these fundamental patterns in favour of the revolutionary class forces. Malaysia ignored such patterns, only to be woken up by race riots in 1969.
  • The structure of the economy remains mineral-dependent and is now finance-led: The economy is still very much reliant on mineral exports for foreign exchange earnings. Although some have found that manufacturing exports have increased, surpassing minerals, such exports remain driven predominantly by the core minerals-energy-complex. Petrochemicals, mining and Basic Iron and Steel make up 69% of total exports, and are highly capital and energy intensive. Many studies have found that the manufacturing sector has rapidly increased exports, attributing this to trade liberalization, which is said to have increased productivity and competitiveness. This is misleading, because the so-called manufacturing that has increased exports, especially basic iron and steel and petro-chemicals, constitute the key pillars of the minerals-energy-complex, and is heavily monopolised.
  • In fact, over a long-haul the structure of exports has failed to break the dominance of core minerals-energy-complex sectors, and imports continue to be made up of sophisticated manufactured items such as machinery and equipment. Between 2003 and 2008 manufacturing imports rose by almost 10 percentage points, thereby contributing problems in the external balance. Since 1975 the financial sector outperformed the non-financial sector in terms of growth performance. By 2005, the financial sector was growing almost twice the growth rate of the non-financial sector. A combination of the increase in finance and the capital-intensive MEC core puts further limits to job creation.
  • In terms of social development, the crisis of Colonialism of a Special Type has not abated, despite valiant efforts to deliver services. The health profile of the population has deteriorated: In 2006, a black female South African was expected to live 12 years shorter than a white male, and an average male in Sweden expected to live 30 years more than an average black South African female. The life expectancy of South Africans was the highest in 1992, at 62 years. Ever since then life expectancy fell to 50 years in 2006. The life expectancy of a white South African now stands at 71 years and that of a black South African stands at 48 years, according to the South African Institute of Race Relations Survey (2009). Whites therefore expect to live 23 years more than blacks according to the study.
  • The crisis in education persists and the quality of education is declining: The poor’s children remain trapped in inferior education with wholly inadequate infrastructure. Indeed according to OECD research, “70% of (matriculation) exam passes are accounted for by just 11% of schools, the former white, coloured, and Asian schools”. What is of major concern is that 12-year olds in South Africa perform three times less than 11-year olds in Russia when it comes to reading and 16-year olds in South Africa perform three times less than 14-year olds in Cyprus when it comes to mathematics. However, white learners perform in line with the international average in both science and mathematics, which is twice the score of African learners.
  • Furthermore it is estimated only 3% of the children who enter the schooling system eventually complete with higher grade mathematics, 15% of grade 3 learners pass both numeracy and literacy, 70% of our schools do not have libraries and 60% do not have laboratories, 60% of children are pushed out of the schooling system before they reach grade 12. In 1997, approximately 1.4 million learners entered the system in Grade 1. The matriculation pass figure of 334,718 learners in 2009 means that 24% were able to complete matriculation in the minimum of 12 years. Lastly, 55% of educators would leave the profession if they had an opportunity to do so. This is symptomatic of an ineffective and dysfunctional education system.
  • The housing challenge is still persistent: There has been progress in the provision of housing; 74% of South African households live in brick structures, flats and townhouses. Nevertheless there remain 15% of households who live in shacks, which amounts to 1.875 million households. Despite the progress that has been made in the provision of decent human settlements, the quality of housing remains a major challenge; 46% of South African households live in dwellings with no more than 3 rooms, 17% of households live in 1-room dwellings. Among Africans 55% live in dwellings with less than 3 rooms and 21% live in 1-room dwellings, whereas at least 50% of White households lives in dwellings with no less than 4 rooms. These disparities in the conditions of living are a direct consequence of the legacy of Colonialism of a Special Type, and the capitalist relations of production that underpin it.
  • Progress has been registered in meeting basic needs but affordability remains a problem: Significant progress has been made in the provision of basic needs in the past 18 years. Households with no access to water infrastructure fell from 36% in 1994 to 4% in 2009. Access to sanitation also dramatically improved over the same period, from 50% to 77%. Access to electricity also improved from 51% to 73%. Nevertheless, in the light of high unemployment, low-paying and precarious work affordability is a problem. As a result, a number of communities have engaged in service-delivery protests, partly inspired by the low quality of services, partly by lack of services and general government neglect, and partly because of cut-offs, which have been informed by the notorious cost-recovery policy on basic services. Between 2009 and 2011, there was on average 10 service delivery protests a month in South Africa, which means that there are, on average, 120 service delivery protests a year! These protests are increasingly becoming violent, with 64% of these protests ending up violently in 2010. The main cause, of course, is lack of accountability and poor service delivery.

It is precisely because of this situation that the CEC had decided that the forthcoming 11th National Congress must preoccupy itself with this reality under inspired by the theme: ‘Strengthen COSATU for total emancipation’.

We are going to the 11th National Congress with quite a number of impressive victories under our belt! Amongst these are the A New Growth Path with its weaknesses and IPAP 2. We have signed four accords on Basic Education, National Skills, Local Procurement and Green Economy.

We have adopted an Alliance Programme of Action and this week we adopted a detailed programme of action to address the crisis of our dysfunctional education system.

Today, we have a government and ruling party who recognise that we are indeed facing a national crisis, a welcome move from the denialism of a few years ago, when we had to argue that there was a national crisis, against those who believed that the revolution was on course and that the benefits of economic growth supposedly produced by GEAR would soon be ‘trickling down’ to the poor and the workers.

All alliance components agree that we must do something extra ordinary to move out of the current situation. We are moving to COSATU congress therefore to answer one central and practical question – what should be the content of the change we seek to achieve?

To help answer these questions we have circulated a discussion paper on collective bargaining. Amongst others the paper summarises the Brazil revolution under the leadership of Lula Da Silva who we have invited to come share lessons of this revolution with our congress. I wish to share with you the summary of these lessons in order to provoke debates in this congress as well as the forthcoming national congress.

  • A revolution is taking place in people’s living standards in Brazil, and certain other parts of Latin America. Strides are being made in reducing poverty, creating decent work, and reducing inequality and unemployment, over a short period. At the heart of the gains in the labour market, is the consolidation of national minimum wages and collective bargaining, with a deliberate strategy driven by progressive governments, to substantially increase the real level of minimum wages, and address the plight of the working poor. The other key leg of this strategy to raise people’s incomes is the introduction of social protection measures to ensure that all the poor, including the unemployed, have access to basic income.
  • More pay and more jobs: How Brazil got both? From 61.4 million people in 2003, the number living in poverty dropped to 41.5 million in 2008 (a decline from 34.3 per cent to 21.9 per cent of the total population). The recovery in the purchasing power of the minimum wage has been crucial here. It really gained momentum from 2005 on, when the federal government made an explicit commitment to promoting it. Between 2003 and 2008, the minimum wage rose faster than inflation, providing workers at the base of the income pyramid with significant real gains (38.3 per cent). There has also been an important, though smaller, increase in the real median wage. Its purchasing power rose by 23.5 per cent.
  • The proportion of formal employment in the whole economically active population (including the unemployed) aged 15 and above increased from 36.1 per cent in 2004 to 40.9 per cent in 2008. There was an especially significant increase in the formalization of jobs for youth. This is important, as formalization brings workers within the effective scope of labour law and social security provisions
  • Recent Brazilian experience contradicts the assumption that a minimum wage will lead to net job losses and inflationary pressures. One of Brazil’s greatest successes since 2003 has been the creation of 15.3 million formal jobs, which has led to growing formalization of the country’s labour force. Indeed, during the 2000s, formal job creation outpaced informal job growth by a three-to-one ratio.
  • The role of trade unions Although it has seven recognized trade union centres and more than 1,600 unions, the Brazilian labour movement has been demonstrating greater unity in action in recent years. Even during the crisis of 2008–09, a large proportion of occupational categories bargained up the purchasing power of their wages. The negotiating climate has changed significantly since 2003. Rights are no longer being bargained away in exchange for the maintenance of employment. Recently, with the relaunch of the development agenda, increasingly the trade union movement’s focus has shifted from simply defending jobs to winning back lost rights and broadening out its demands. Among the main issues around which the unions and the trade union centres are currently mobilizing are: i) reducing weekly working hours to 40; ii) regulation of subcontracting; iii) the minimum wage revaluation policy; and iv) defending a development model that distributes income
  • ILO G20 policy brief on Brazil, September 2011 During the 2000`s Gini coefficient measure of inequality was reduced from 0.58 to 0.54. Two-thirds of the fall in inequality is attributed to increases in wages, of which one- third stems from earnings equivalent to the minimum wage (between 2003 and 2010, the real value of the minimum wage increased by 81 per cent). The remaining distributional gains stem from the social safety net, in particular the rural pension, which provides benefits equal to the minimum wage to 8.4 million rural workers; the Continued Benefit Provision, which provides social assistance pensions equal to the minimum wage to 3.5 million elderly poor and disabled; and the flagship Bolsa Família conditional cash transfer programme, which provides modest benefits to a quarter of the population, at the low cost of 0.4 per cent of GDP.
  • The increase in incomes of the poor and middle classes has fuelled domestic demand. Because Brazil retains an important manufacturing base, the growth in consumer demand has benefited the economy and spurred job creation, particularly in manufacturing and distribution as well as among large retailers, where jobs are predominantly formal.
  • Changes to labour inspection methods in Brazil have improved labour law compliance while contributing to increased formality.
  • The recent economic crisis did not halt the trend towards a greater share of formal employment in Brazil’s labour force. When the international economic crisis hit the country in 2008, GDP contracted by 4.4 percentage points and GDP declined by 0.6 per cent in 2009. Yet in 2009, the country was able to generate 1.7 million formal jobs, an increase of 4.5 per cent over 2008. The strong labour market performance was due in large part to the Government’s effective response to the economic crisis.

The question COSATU and the democratic forces should ask is can we help lead the democratic forces into a new direction where we can deal with our challenges more decisively. Can we help unite the ANC so that it can preoccupy itself with the need to give content to the second phase of our uninterrupted revolution so that we can be in a position where we achieve the revolution as we see it unfold in Brazil and other Latin American countries?

We have been arguing that we need a mindset change if we are to succeed to going down a new direction. Let us ask a fundamental question – are there any signs we see that we embracing a new mindset? Are we working for unity of COSATU and the Alliance or have the destruction tendencies taken over and that there is just nothing we can do but to continue a path to our destruction?

Are we refusing to let go what the ANC 52nd national conference referred to as “…foreign tendencies such as ghost membership, rent-a-member, winner-takes-all, unceasing lobbying, howling and heckling, pigeon-holing of comrades, the launch of branches solely for congress purposes, criminalisation of dissent, blind loyalty to individuals and factions, abuse of organisational symbols and cultures for factional lobbying and campaigning and sometimes bloody violence in ANC conferences.”[1]

What we can’t afford is more promises of tough action that does not materialise. Or a promise that come period after Mangaung ‘people will see’ a sea change. We want that demonstration now! That is why we saying those who are facing allegation must be held to account now not later. The damaging effect of all of these allegations to our movement demands that we clarify if these allegations are true or not. What is disappointing is that the ANC and the government never ever say a word about these allegations. We hope that ‘our people’ will forget about them in no time. This is a mistake!

We must however not fool ourselves into thinking that the trade unions are immune from these corrupting tendencies. Our provincial and national congresses must ask searching questions about whether any of our leaders or officials are accepting money from employers in return for favours, or looting provident or investment funds. The survey by our members reveals that our member’s perception of extent of corruption within the unions is at its highest ever!

We must have a policy of zero-tolerance to any such practices. It is not only wrong in principle, but also, just as in the public service, it invariably leads to poor service to members, low levels of recruitment, a reluctance to fight with employers and potentially destroys our credibility and capacity to defend our members.

Our focus must be on the targets for 2015 – how to expand our membership, especially in badly organised sectors like agriculture, tourism, call centres and domestic workers, how to deliver better services to our members and how to play a fuller part in the swelling of the ranks of our Alliance partners, the ANC and SACP.

We cannot succeed in taking forward our revolution unless we combine both the need to renew our organisations and a need to speed up our total transformation. We insist there will be no economic transformation led by a divided and factionalised organisations.

Our biggest challenge is that we won’t listen! There more we speak against the dangers of factionalising our organisation, there more we do just that.

Let us briefly speak about some of the challenges we face today. On the 07 March 2012 we led over 4 million in one of the biggest national strikes we have seen in the recent past with hundreds of thousands occupying the streets of our cities and towns across the length and breadth of our country.

We demanded that the labour brokers be banned without any further delay. We demanded that the whole idea of erecting inner city e-tolls be scrapped. We united with range social forces and were joined by the vanguard of the working class in this battle.

It is only fair we tell you where things are in both of them. Our movement the ANC approached us for discussion on both of these issues. Thanks to your power we agreed that the implementation date for e-tolls be postponed whilst we looking at alternative funding models. We agreed that the challenge we face is to build a reliable, safe, affordable and accessible public transport system and not mega elite projects such as Gautrain, e-tolls and or proposed speed train between Durban and Johannesburg.

On our demand on the labour brokers we have only one area that standing between us and the full agreement with the ANC. We want a total ban of labour brokers whilst the ANC want us to agree that we allow triangular relationship, which will guarantee space for labour brokers in the relationship that should exist between the workers and their employers in the first six months of employment. COSATU argues that one-day under the enslaving and super exploitative labour brokering is a day too long. We have an agreement on all other matters including on the critical principle on ‘equal pay for work of equal value’. All the anti worker proposals have been withdrawn including the suggestion to make teaching an essential services, forcing only workers involved in the dispute with the employers to join pickets, forcing unions to ballot member before any strike action, introducing a long cool off period before workers are allowed to strike.

In the recent past the matter of extra ordinary crisis of youth unemployment has been used by anti worker forces to attempt to drive a wedge between employed and unemployed workers and between younger and older workers.

We are now being told that the youth unemployment is caused by high wages or ‘inflexible’ labour laws. We have been told that youth wage subsidy is working perfectly all over the world. We decided to study more closely the Treasury literature and discovered that in fact their own study lean towards the COSATU position. There is no empirical evidence that this policy has worked anywhere in the world. The ILO (2011) reports that “research in various countries has shown that wage subsidies lead to combined deadweight and substitution effects of the order of 70-90% of the number of jobs created”. The estimate by National Treasury puts the deadweight loss alone to be 58%, i.e. 58% of the promised jobs from the subsidy would have been created without the subsidy (that is, if we believe National Treasury’s estimates!).

The youth wage subsidy will have significant substitution effects. Firms will have an incentive to let go of existing workers in order to employ subsidised ones. We are told that this can’t happen since we have strong unions and strong government. Yet only 29% of the workforce is unionised in South Africa, which opens up the rest, 71%, to abuse. In addition, the existence of labour brokers who screen and manage workers for employers also makes it easy to fire existing workers and get “good ones” on a subsidised basis.

The youth wage subsidy is that it does not guarantee that training and skills development will take place in the workplace, less so in the sectors where job-creation is likely to be created: wholesale and retail trade, personal services and construction.

Our starting point is that most of the unemployed youth should be at school not in workplaces. The biggest challenge we face if we are to address the crisis of youth unemployment is fix our dysfunctional education system.

We are arguing that we must train and expose the young people to the world of work through internships for youth in the public and the private sector. We return to the proposals that we have not effectively implemented such as introducing youth brigades through a public sector programme, covering at least a health brigade (to address community education on HIV and a healthy lifestyle), a rural brigade, a literacy brigade and a green brigade (energy saving measures, awareness of climate change).

We want a national youth cooperative scheme should be developed, with funding to set up youth controlled cooperatives, with set asides of public sector contracts for solar water heater installations to be given to youth cooperatives. This could be complemented by special measures to promote youth-owned small businesses.

We will look at any genuine proposal to make it easier for young workers to find employment, but will oppose bogus schemes like the DA’s Youth Wage Subsidy, which is nothing more than a tax-payers’ hand-out to employers to bribe them to create subsidised jobs for youth, with nothing to stop them retrenching an equal number of older workers and nothing to compel them to give those young workers any training.

We congratulate the ANC Policy Conference on throwing out this idea yet again. We will look closely and sympathetically at the alternative idea of a Job Seekers’ Grant, to assist the young jobless to find work.

The Living Wage Campaign must be the cornerstone of the work of the trade union movement, to mobilise workers to fight poverty, close the apartheid wage gap and address broader inequalities in our society.

As part of the campaign, we have opened up a debate within the federation around a discussion paper, ‘Towards new collective bargaining, wage and social protection strategies’, which will be on the agenda of the National Congress. Among the many issues we shall be discussing are:

  • A legislated minimum wage across the board to set the minimum living standards
  • Regulation of executive pay to close the apartheid and gender pay gaps.
  • Disclosure of company profits, executive pay and bonuses
  • Guaranteed decent employment by the state
  • Improved collective bargaining arrangements

The Living Wage Campaign must also look at the social wage, to fight for decent and affordable housing and access to land, quality healthcare through the National Health Insurance scheme, free, universal and quality public education until university level, cheap and efficient public transport and affordable basic services.

The campaign must also target changes in labour legislation so that maternity and paternity leave are fully paid and that workers are not disempowered and denied the right to strike because they belong to “essential services”, defined in a way that could cover all public service staff.

Another key campaign in 2012 is the fight to eradicate corruption, incompetence and waste. Unless this is stamped out, it will continue to sabotage all our struggles for a better life for workers and the poor. We desperately need a mindset change, throughout society but particularly in our revolutionary movement.

Finally we must not neglect our responsibility to support the struggles of our fellow-workers around the world.

The global crisis, which erupted in 2008, has changed the world’s economic and political landscape. Although it was centred around the world’s advanced capitalist countries in the North, it also had devastating effects on poorer nations` economies and workers’ living standards.

It is very encouraging to witness the development of progressive popular movements and uprisings in Middle East and North African countries, and left governments being elected in Latin America, and even protests in Europe and in the Occupy Wall Street movement

We must fight to use this crisis to lay the foundation for a stronger international workers’ movement in both the North and South based on economic alternatives to neo-liberalism.

Trade unions have to invent new and creative strategies to respond to the changing terrain of struggle. Independent, worker controlled and democratic unions are one of the key weapons in the class struggle. The crisis has deepened the attacks on workers in the South whilst its adverse impact on workers in advanced capitalist countries has planted serious radicalism in amongst workers in the North. This has provided some real foundations for much greater workers’ unity.

I hope you have a very fruitful congress and I look forward to seeing many of you again in Midrand on 17 - 20 September 2012.

[1] Organisational Report of the ANC’s 51st National Conference, www.anc.org.za. The 52nd National Conference also identified the same challenges.