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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements




The COSATU National Executive Committee (Exco) met in an ordinary session in Johannesburg from 19-20 July, 1996. A wide range of issues were discussed, including recent major policy and legislative developments. Among the areas discussed by the COSATU Exco, were the following issues of public concern: Governments Macro Economic Framework; Labour Market Commission; Employment Standards Legislation; Interest Rates; and International issues.

1. Macro-Economic Framework The Executive considered Government's Macro-Economic Framework. Key areas of concern with aspects of the Framework were identified, which in the view of the Executive, would take us in a direction diametrically opposed to the economic growth path outlined in the RDP. These areas included the proposals on rapidly slashing the budget deficit; contractionary monetary policy and the lifting of exchange controls; labour market policy and unemployment; investment and industrial policy; and trade and tariffs.

It is the view of the Federation that, whatever economic difficulties and challenges the country is facing, there are alternative ways to develop a Macro-Economic Framework which would be able to promote a developmental growth path. This growth path, like most examples of development in societies undergoing reconstruction, would see redistribution, elimination of unemployment, improved labour standards, and increased social spending as not just being a long term objective of economic development, but the means by which society will attain rapid economic growth. In our view this approach is the only one with a reasonable prospect of success- the World Bank/IMF and Reserve Bank models, on the other hand, is a certain recipe for economic disaster.

These conservative models are not going to bring about the envisaged creation of 400 000 new jobs, nor going to deliver the social needs of our people. At the most it will increase the gap between the poor and the rich, and condemn the homeless and jobless into extreme levels of poverty.

COSATU rejects the idea that the RDP growth path, (successfully used in most respects by countries which have embarked on major programmes of reconstruction, emerging out of poverty or war situations) is unrealistic or will result in reckless spending, hyper-inflation, and our isolation from the world economy. Rather than focus on what we are being told to do by various countries and international institutions, we should look at what those countries themselves did to overcome poverty and inequality.

COSATU is committed to the elaboration of a Macro-Economic Framework which first and foremost addresses the national priorities and interests of our people. To be successful, such a strategy cannot only look to one party to drive the process, but must be the product of a truly national effort. This requires an active role for the state, business, labour and the community in its development. A special onus will need to be placed on South Africans to invest massively in our economy, since any strategy which is premised solely on foreigners investing in our country, while we fail to show confidence in ourselves, is doomed to failure.

The COSATU Executive resolved to engage actively with Government and the Alliance, to seek to develop a Macro-Economic Framework which will meet these objectives. We are currently fleshing out certain alternative proposals for further discussion within the Federation and with our allies. Our local and regional structures will also engage with those of the Alliance to ensure wider discussion and debate. We are convinced that it is possible for the alliance to reach consensus on an approach, and thereby deliver on our promise- a Better Life for All.

2. Labour Market Commission The COSATU Executive noted the report of the Labour Market Commission and the ILO country report on South Africa's labour market. The Exco agreed to set up a team to scrutinise these reports and feed in our response. We note that the ILO report supports COSATU's view that those calling for greater 'labour market flexibility' as a prerequisite for economic growth, are ignorant of the labour market realities facing the vast majority of South Africa's workers.

3. Employment Standards Legislation Exco received a report of negotiations taking place in the Labour Market Chamber of Nedlac on Employment Standards legislation. Exco reiterated COSATU's demands inter alia for a 40 hour week, 6 months paid maternity leave, and on Scope and Application of the Act. COSATU further reiterates our view that Employment Standards legislation must protect the most vulnerable of workers, and therefore rejects variation of standards which undermines this objective.

COSATU Office Bearers will study the recently released draft Bill which captures the Government mandate, in order to give a response to our negotiators. We are also embarking on a process of reporting back to our membership. At this stage, there is no agreement on the key issues, except for the question of child labour. While there is no formal deadlock as yet, it is our view that unless business changes its approach, we are likely to reach one.

4. Interest Rates The decision of banks to lower their interest rates was a victory for the campaign led by COSATU. This is the first time in any significant way that banks in South Africa have been forced to account to consumers of their services. Exco resolved to further pursue the issue of high interest rates, as well as the need for restructuring of competition policy and the Reserve Bank.

We will be pursuing this issue in the Fiscal and Monetary Chamber of Nedlac. COSATU will also be advancing a number of proposals in this regard in our submission to the Parliamentary special committee hearings on interest rates, in Pretoria on 25th July.

5. International Labour Organisation Exco expressed its profound disappointment at the decision of Governments at the recent meeting of the ILO, to elect representatives into key positions on the ILO governing body, from countries which have no respect for human and trade union rights. In particular, Exco regarded it as especially inappropriate to elect as President a representative of the Arab Emirates, where trade unions are not allowed to operate. Further, the election of representative of the Swaziland and Nigerian regimes whose abuse of human and trade union rights is notorious, is a slap in the face for workers throughout Africa. This should not be allowed to send a signal that the ILO is going soft on the promotion of basic trade union rights. We call on our government to take steps to prevent a repetition of this in the future.

Exco congratulate the delegates from Southern African trade unions who were elected onto the governing body, in greater numbers than ever before. These delegates include South Africa's own Dorothy Mokgalo which we view as an advance both for South African workers, and for women in our country.

Nowetu Mpati COSATU Head of Communications

Tel: + 27 + 11 + 339-4911 Fax: + 27 + 11 + 339-2281 E-mail: nowetu@cosatu.org.za