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The Shopsteward Subscribe to get a copy of the Shopsteward The Shopsteward Online Archive

Shopsteward Volume 27 No. 3

COSATU Media Monitor COSATU Media Monitor COSATU Media Monitor

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements

TEN YEARS OF WORKERS' UNITY AND STRUGGLE

Issued by: Congress of South African Trade Unions

TEN YEARS OF WORKERS' UNITY AND STRUGGLE

On 1 December 1985 hundreds of workers and other delegates around the country assembled in Durban to give birth to, in the words of Cyril Ramaphosa, then NUM general secretary, "a giant".

At the time of the launch, a low intensity war was raging in Natal and other parts of the country. But workers defied a draconian state of emergency declared by the NP's PW Botha to launch their federation. This marked the beginning of the new era in the history of workers in South Africa.

Since COSATU's launch, workers have achieved countless major victories for themselves and their families.

Within a short period of time, COSATU became the fastest growing trade union in the world. From just over 400 000 members in 1985, we grew rapidly to over 1,6 million in 1995. We established strong regions and over 150 locals all over the country. We formed strong structures in the factories, shops, mines and farms.

In line with our principle of "one union, one industry", we rationalised and merged over 33 unions into powerful industrial unions. Today COSATU has 19 affiliated unions. Our unions are currently recruiting and uniting workers across colour lines and historical backgrounds.

Improvement of workers' conditions of employment

Through vibrant and strong structures, we have scored countless victories in the war against poverty wages and slavery working conditions. In almost all sectors except for agriculture and domestic workers, we have improved wages and working conditions through hard struggles led by our affiliated unions and the federation.

Workers' rights

COSATU-affiliated unions have fought for and won thousands of agreements with bosses at plant, company and industrial level. These have given rights to workers which were denied by the apartheid Labour Relations Act (LRA) and other laws.

Through the Workers' Charter and many other campaigns, we extended rights to many other workers, even those who were not members of our affiliates.

We defeated anti-worker and pro-boss amendments to the LRA which the bosses' NP government, was trying to push down our throats. We fought the previous health and safety laws and won some improvements through the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1933. The Mines Health and Safety Act is currently being restructured. This year we led yet another campaign for a worker-friendly LRA which extends major rights to all workers, including domestic and farm workers.

Liberation struggles

Once launched, COSATU immediately formed alliances with progressive organisations to defeat apartheid and national oppression. Our struggles against the pass laws, Mixed Marriages Act, Separate Amenities Act, the migrant labour system, influx control and countless other laws can never be forgotten. Our members joined forces with residents to bring apartheid to its knees throughout the country. Today we have a government of our own choice led by comrade Nelson Mandela. We salute the millions of workers who sacrificed and even laid down their lives to create a better world for all of us.

Many further challenges await us in our long walk to economic freedom

The time to celebrate these achievements has now come!

Organise, mobilize and arrange transport through your affiliate to join thousands of other workers in Durban on 2 December 1995.

TEN FIGHTING YEARS!

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