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Shopsteward Volume 27 No. 3

COSATU Media Monitor COSATU Media Monitor COSATU Media Monitor

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements

ADDRESS BY COSATU GENERAL SECRETARY SAM SHILOWA

Issued by: COSATU

ADDRESS BY SAM SHILOWA COSATU GENERAL SECRETARY ON THE OCCASION OF COSATU's 10TH ANNIVERSARY

Deputy President Thabo Mbeki Comrade Charles Nqakula Leadership of the tripartite alliance Veterans of the trade union movement Honoured guests Comrades and friends

Introduction

President, John Gomomo and other speakers outlined to you the countless victories scored by workers in the 10 years of COSATU existence and by others before us. In the immediate past when outlining COSATU's vision and challenges, we used to talk about changes we wanted to see implemented when there was a transition to democracy. Now that the future we always talked about has arrived, we realise that the future isn't what it used to be! Many thought that the struggles will end at the point of liberation. Many thought there shall be no more struggles and challenges once Nelson Mandela is released or the ANC wins an election.

Fortunately or unfortunately for us, the transition brings with it new challenges. My task today is to outline those challenges to you.

Organisational Challenges

We should take pride at the fact that we have grown from 460 000 to 1,6 million members in 10 years, consolidated our unions to 19, with regional and local structures. This we have done despite the repressive measures inflicted upon us by the apartheid regime.

They bombed our offices - yet we grew. They detained our staff - yet we grew. They killed some activists - yet we grew and we promise our enemies - the enemies of poor people, of workers, of the unemployed - we will continue to grow in numbers and in power.

No other trade union movement has grown so quickly. However our mission to organise all SA. workers into one union, one industry and into COSATU is not yet over - there are still millions of workers who remain outside of our fold. We must today commit ourselves to reach the 2 million member mark by the next anniversary which is in December 1996.

From today onwards our assertion that every member is an organiser must be turned into reality. Together with our organisers and shop stewards we have a responsibility to recruit more members into our unions. We must start with those who are working with us before moving outside the factory gate.

We have won a significant place in society on the basis of our strong organisation and active and militant membership. From the days of the UDF, through the negotiations and elections, COSATU has become the true voice of the organisation position only on the basis that we retain our organisational strength and power.

We have made significant gains in movement towards winning centralised bargaining. There are however still employers who resist collective bargaining. We intend to use our power and the new LRA to introduce the system of collective bargaining in every industry. 1996 will be a significant year in the battle for centralised bargaining.

A new part of our agenda will also see struggles around the democratisation of the workplace. We will constantly challenge unilateral decision making by management on areas such as investment, disclosure of information and powers and composition of company boards. We also need to redefine duties of middle management. We intend to embark on a series of campaigns against those employers who resist workplace democracy, in particular the disclosure of information.

Our slogan should be: NOW IS THE TIME - BUILD COSATU

Political Challenges

Our greatest challenge politically is the ability to defend, consolidate and deepen democracy. Having crushed the apartheid regime and it's surrogates in the April 1994 elections, getting a second mandate to govern in the November local government elections, we must now turn our attention to Kwa-Zulu Natal and the metro- politan areas of Cape Town. We want to declare here and now that we are ready to defeat the National Party, the IFP and their friends and prove to them that their hollow victories was a fluke. We must ensure that all our members regardless of which party they belong to, understand that apartheid created parties are obstructing democracy and the implementation of the RDP.

Under the banner of the ANC and the leadership of President Mandela we will liberate ourselves from those who lead the secessionist and racist campaigns.

The working draft of the new constitution has just been published. Already we can see that some of our hard won gains are under attack. On most issues the ANC is a lone voice. Some of the parties are even proposing to limit or take away our right to strike. They also want to interfere with our internal union affairs. We call on you the members of COSATU and other democratic forces to ensure that our demands are enshrined in the final draft. In particular we should ensure that our rights to join and establish trade unions, to strike, and picket are in the final constitution. The ability of trade unions to conclude closed and agency shops must be defended by the entire alliance and the democratic movement. We must defeat the agenda of those who seek to limit the right to bargain collectively and to fight for automatic extension of the same agreement. Together with the SACP and the ANC we must ensure that employers are not afforded even with a limited recourse to lock us out. There are many other constituencies who are campaigning for the inclusion of socio-economic rights favourable to the working class. They too deserve our support.

COSATU will have to put more emphasis and resources into organising skilled workers and professionals and deepening our organisational strategies among white workers. Through struggles we have made a breakthrough in winning further support. This support spans through to white workers, white collar workers and professionals. The presence of SASBO is a testimony to this influence. Their presence must be the catalyst that propels us to move forward and win even more white workers. COSATU has more than 50 000 white members. We call on the remaining white workers to join COSATU and be true to their class interest as workers. The same can be said for SADTU, the IPS and the 40 000 nurses in NEHAWU. Indeed most of our unions are beginning to break out of being solely "blue collar" unions.

The 5th National Congress resolved to organise more public sector workers into our ranks. We are today the most significant force in the public sector - the combined membership of COSATU's public sector.Affiliates are the biggest bloc in the public sector. The same goes for the rest of the unorganised. The new LRA accords us a lot of opportunities in this regard. The procedure for introduction of the union in the workplace is now very simple. We also need to take steps to strengthen SAAPAWU, our affiliate organising in the agricultural sector. There are many workers in the rural areas and small dorpies who want to join our unions. We must take conscious efforts to move away from concentrating only on urban and industrial areas. The existence of the closed shop will also help bring about stability on the shop floor.

To free riders all I can say to them is "beware". Let us send a clear notice to those who wish to challenge and destroy the democratic closed shop. COSATU will use its power to ensure that every worker becomes a union member. We will protect our gains on the closed shop with all our energy.

The recruitment drive must go hand in hand with empowerment of women. We must take decisive steps to ensure that women are integrated into our leadership. It is our collective responsibility to strengthen gender forums while at the same integrating gender issues into the mainstream of our agenda. Next year's gender focused issues should be attended by all of us.

With determination let's move out of this rally and strengthen our structures at every level. Where shop-stewards committees have collapsed or are non existent let us elect new ones. Where they need training let us give it to them. Where our members are being victimised lets offer defence. Where we are making advances let's double our efforts. Where we have weak or ineffective organisers, let's train and impose discipline of our organisations to them.

We have made significant gains in movement towards winning centralised bargaining. There are however still employers who resist collective bargaining. We intend to use our power and the new LRA to introduce the system of collective bargaining in every industry. 1996 will be a significant year in the battle for centralised bargaining.

A new part of our agenda will also see struggles around the democratisation of the workplace. We will constantly challenge unilateral decision making by management on areas such as investment, disclosure of information and powers and composition of company boards. We also need to redefine duties of middle management. We intend to embark on a series of campaigns against those employers who resist workplace democracy, in particular the disclosure of information.

Our slogan should be: NOW IS THE TIME - BUILD COSATU

Political Challenges

Our greatest challenge politically is the ability to defend, consolidate and deepen democracy. Having crushed the apartheid regime and it's surrogates in the April 1994 elections, getting a second mandate to govern in the November local government elections, we must now turn our attention to Kwa-Zulu Natal and the metro- politan areas of Cape Town. We want to declare here and now that we are ready to defeat the National Party, the IFP and their friends and prove to them that their hollow victories was a fluke. We must ensure that all our members regardless of which party they belong to, understand that apartheid created parties are obstructing democracy and the implementation of the RDP.

Under the banner of the ANC and the leadership of President Mandela we will liberate ourselves from those who lead the secessionist and racist campaigns.

The working draft of the new constitution has just been published. Already we can see that some of our hard won gains are under attack. On most issues the ANC is a lone voice. Some of the parties are even proposing to limit or take away our right to strike. They also want to interfere with our internal union affairs. We call on you the members of COSATU and other democratic forces to ensure that our demands are enshrined in the final draft. In particular we should ensure that our rights to join and establish trade unions, to strike, and picket are in the final constitution. The ability of trade unions to conclude closed and agency shops must be defended by the entire alliance and the democratic movement. We must defeat the agenda of those who seek to limit the right to bargain collectively and to fight for automatic extension of the same agreement. Together with the SACP and the ANC we must ensure that employers are not afforded even with a limited recourse to lock us out. There are many other constituencies who are campaigning for the inclusion of socio-economic rights favourable to the working class. They too deserve our support.

A month or so ago workers in the public sector in France went out on a one day work stoppage. Railways and metro workers have been on strike for twelve days running, postal and hospital orkers have also joined.

No employer have threatened to pack their bags and go because of these strikes, nor have they been threatened with a lock out nor dismissal. Communities have refused to go and scab! Instead they have pledged solidarity with the workers. These are the lessons South Africa can learn. We salute the workers of France, and are battle ready to come to their assistance when called to do so.

At the same time we should ensure that the new constitution does not promote forced coalition. The GNU's life must come to end at the stipulated time in 1999. Those calling for extension of the life span of the GNU should be told in no uncertain terms that we stand for majority rule. We are not prepared to delay full democracy even by one day. If they want to rule they must win their own election. The same goes for those who want to bring about fragmentation in our country under the guise of "federalism". We will not allow Balkinsation of our country - politically and economically. We are determined to ensure the maintenance of national standards throughout the country.

The working document must be discussed in our locals, areas of residence, and in alliance structures. We must use the meetings on the constitution to further strengthen our alliance with the ANC and the SACP. Since the election we have been flooded with unsolicited advice to end the alliance. Most of them would be happy to see the ANC being in alliance with big business. Our alliance with the ANC and SACP is not for old times sake or based on romanticism. It is based on our conviction that only the alliance has the capacity to bring about meaningful change in our country. At the same time we need to strengthen our co-operation with Women, Youth, Rural poor and Students organisations. Together we should build organs of people's power for democracy. Only strong organisation can bring about meaningful change in our country.

Socialism

In our every day life we see poverty, malnutrition, unemployment, job losses, homelessness, etc. yet we are told to embrace capitalism and the free market. We have yet to see the fruits of this free market in our country, the whole of Southern Africa, Africa, Latin Africa, etc. In our view it has failed dismally to provide basic necessities to our people. It is the free market for exploitation.

In the name of capitalism and apartheid we were denied the land, disenfranchised as economic citizens, given inferior education, driven apart as workers despite our common destiny. This we do not want. We want houses. We want jobs, better health care, education, social security. We are convinced that this is only possible under a socialist order. We are more than ever before committed to fight for socialism. Together with the SACP and other socialists we have a responsibility not only to attack capitalism but eliminate exploitation, inequalities and social injustices now. We must also reject the notion that we should do nothing to build factories, help to create jobs, end poverty, provide houses, etc. since it is assisting in the upkeep of capitalism. All steps that will make possible movement towards socialism needs to be taken now, and not later.

Socio Economic

However comrades, democracy must mean more than the right to vote every couple of years. It needs to be accompanied by economic democracy so that workers become economic citizens of our country. COSATU is committed to rebuilding the South African economy to one that is capable to serve the need of the peoples of our country. Such an economy must be able to provide jobs, houses, water, a living wage, training, a career path, an end to discrimination on the basis of race and gender. In short, we require the same so called miracle that happened politically, to happen in the economic sphere.

Everyone says to us that the economy is growing. Maybe it is, but we do not see the benefits. What we see is the rich becoming richer, while the poor get poorer. A wave of retrenchment is currently taking place in all sectors of the economy. Casualisation is taking root. This we can not allow. We have a responsibility to create jobs, and to preserve the jobs of our own members. We should not be afraid to speak up for our own members in the same vigour that we speak for society. After all, they pay subs.

We also need to talk very seriously to the GNU, the ANC in particular. We are not opposed to a process to unleash our untapped economic potential. But blind loyalty to trade liberalisation will bring a collapse of our economy.

Our call for a social plan is based on the understanding that industrial restructuring must go hand in hand with training. The IMF and the World Bank who are applauding liberalisation now are like vultures waiting to pounce and force structural adjustment programmes once that collapse takes place. They have destroyed the economy of Mexico and of Zimbabwe in the interest of international investors. Now they seek to do the same in our country. let us together plan an implementation strategy which will not lead to the destruction of our livelihood. Of what use is an economy, if it can not provide livelihood? COSATU, the SACP and the ANC should concentrate their efforts on ensuring that investment are channelled into bricks and mortar rather than speculative investment. Let the country build new factories and thereby create jobs. Those who do not invest in the productive sector must be more heavily taxed. Let's renew our infrastructure. Above all, the government must lead some of this investment. The notion that the government has no role in the economy or in business is perpetrated by those who are waiting to steal the family silver.

Nedlac

Many of you have heard of Nedlac. You are asking yourself what the hell we are doing there. As President Gomomo said at its launch, we are there on behalf of Jabu Xulu and Cynthia Gumede. These are workers like us who face exploitation from their respective employers. They earn R200.00 per week compared to John Smith's R20 000.00 per week. Jabu Stays in a shack and works at Isithebe. Cynthia stays with her recently retrenched husband in Umlazi. One of the issues delivered to them has been the LRA. Their appetite is now wetted. They expect and deserve more. They expect Nedlac to agree on a framework that delivers new jobs, but also preserve existing jobs. They expect an end to blind and loyal implementation of the agreement to restructure and reduce or remove tariffs, commonly known as the GATT Agreement. They expect the GNU to consult with their federation on the plan for its implementation. They would want to be sure that this is a programme to restructure their industry such that more jobs are created. They want to be assured that this is not a bourgeois plan to retrench them. The challenge for COSATU is to deliver on this. The ball is in the court of business and the government. Can they deliver? We don't know. Of course it depends on their will. What we do know however is that if they go on with business as usual and no change, Jabu and Cynthia will be justified in calling on us to embark on action to ensure delivery. We dare not fail them.

To our alliance partners, the challenge is how to restructure in a way acceptable to working people. Once clarity is there on jobs, investments, positive spin offs, together we can ensure genuine transformation. The government must also deal harshly with corrupt custom officials who take bribes for flooding the country with foreign goods without these companies paying taxes. We salute the 2 000 SACTWU members who as part of their union's Project Jobs, marched on Durban Harbour earlier this week.

Let's shout loud and clear for our government and employers to hear. We want jobs for all. Stop retrenchments - save jobs, train and retrain. No to starvation wages - we want a living wage.

What Jabu and Nomsa also expect of us is to deal decisively with the issue of scab labour. "Basotho ba re: go chechela morago, ga se go seya". Our position is very clear, we do not believe or accept the use of scab labour. We will fight it on the shop floor, industry level and if need be, back in Nedlac. To the government, our first demand is not to grant public tender for issues such as uniforms, medicines and electronics etc. to any company that employs scab labour. The demand must be put in the state tender board by COSATU delegates. If the draft constitution prevents Government tender from advancing the RDP, the provision must be changed.

Everyday when employers' bellies are full, they point fingers at organised workers as causes of unemployment. I want to send them a message. COSATU represent 1,6 million workers who pay their weekly membership fees. These workers are the other part, the often forgotten half of the wealth-creating machinery of society, a vital and important part of our workplaces, yet anonymous in the media, only until intolerable conditions under which they work force them to cease working, to exercise their fundamental right to strike, whereafter they are seen as spoilers and wreckers. These workers, too, are, in practice, our country's social security net for the millions of unemployed. Cynthia's wages must cover her husband who is jobless. Her wage must also be used to buy food from the informal sector fellow selling his goods in Umlazi. She must for no one at present does give money to her brother who has been unemployed since leaving school three years ago!. The problem of unemployment is not labour's problem alone. It is the country's problem. We are prepared to play our part in finding means and ways of creating more jobs. It remains to be seen what employers' commitment is.

RDP

In the 1994 National Congress we have said much of our focus should be to ensure that RDP is implemented to the full. Many forces are at play wanting to sabotage implementation of the RDP. The RDP is a product of COSATU and the alliance. We therefore cannot pay lip service to implementation. We need to go to our communities and play our role. Be it cleaning schools, repairs, identifying projects that will delivery basics to our people. We should applaud Kader Asmal for bringing water to our people. Support should be given to those who are in housing, land and the rest of the infrastructure development. We should defend its implementation.

Our 1994 Congress calls on all workers to make sacrifices in order to take our country away from the misery it is in and to turn it into a country where all of us will be its proud citizens. Our contribution to the RDP should not only be limited to working on public holidays. We must think more of demands we should make to the employers. Such demands should help take the RDP forward.

Health and Safety

Since the turn of the century, many workers have died or been injured at the workplace. Most of these deaths could have been avoided and prevented. The apartheid government was more concerned to appease the bosses above workers - black workers in particular. Employers put profits above the lives of workers. With new government, we have a chance to start afresh. The draft bill adopted by government on mine safety is a step in the right direction. What we need to focus on is how to use that bill and its provisions to harmonise the rest of the Health and Safety Act under a single Ministry. Such legislation must also provide for the right to refuse to do dangerous and unsafe work. We must campaign for full-time health and safety stewards.

As we assemble here, lets not forget those of our colleagues who were killed by the careless reckless and profit greedy bosses in the mines and other industries.

Our major challenges are to ensure that our places of work become places of work not slaughter houses where we face possibilities of being maimed by machines and chemicals.

We want companies to be made to pay every time a worker gets injured or killed at the workplace. We want heavy penalties for reckless bosses and we want criminal charges to be laid against employers who treat our lives and limbs as cheap objects.

The same goes for the environment. Employers have a tendency of dumping toxic waste next to the homes and communities of working people. COSATU members must play a leading role in spearheading campaigns against those who promote such cruel and barbaric behaviour. We must fight to protect our environment against exploitation. The internationally accepted principle of the polluter must pay, must be severely applied.

HIV/AIDS

The Insurance companies now want to punish us the working class for society's crisis with AIDS. The bosses now want to test workers in order to establish if they are HIV positive before they are employed. Many workers are being tested for HIV/AIDS without their consent. If tested HIV positive they are thrown out of the factories to die out of the bosses sight. As we were marking the World AIDS day yesterday 1st DEC 1995 we must move out of this stadium with every determina- tion needed to stop discrimination against workers who are HIV positive. We are placing before Nedlac a draft code of Conduct on AIDS. A worker with AIDS is still a worker! A COSATU member with AIDS is still a member!

International

We salute workers in Holland, Denmark, Norway, Britain, Sweden, Finland, Cuba, Zambia and others for the solidarity given to us during the dark days of apartheid. The victories and celebration we are having today, will have not been possible without the support given to us by the international trade union movement. Let's not forget workers and societies elsewhere who are being terrorised by barbaric, heartless dictators. Let us build strong links with workers in all corners of the world.

Let us use the space we created in South Africa to put pressure on those countries who refuse to give rights to workers, who uses child labour, who discriminate against women workers, who oppress and deny freedom to their citizens. This is what our struggle for the social clause is. It is not protectionism but an attempt to ensure certain basic rules of the game in the same way that the World Trade Organisation protects intellectual property. We call on President Mandela together with other leaders to take the moral leadership on the issue of trade and trade union rights and together with workers internationally lead a campaign for the inclusion of social clauses in the WTO. We also want to see this body restruc- tured to include labour and to prevent the domination by capital of international trade relations.

In Nigeria the regime has dismissed the entire trade union leadership, moved their headquarters to Abuja and arrested some of the leadership. As part of the struggle for the restoration of democracy in Nigeria, we should ensure that the Nigerian Labour Congress's leadership is released, allowed to hold its Congress and to run the union without interference. We must also support steps being taken by President Mandela to help restore democracy in Nigeria.

The same goes for Swaziland where a new law similar to the one which we rejected in 1988 is being pushed through despite opposition by employers and workers. Our government which respects trade union rights in this country should also take these issues up at the rele- vant levels of government to ensure freedom of the labour movement.

Legislative Programme

1995 has seen us fighting and winning a new LRA that gives us a base to improve our working conditions and wages.

The victory over the LRA would not have been possible through mere drafting and clever arguments. It was made possible through your relentless struggle and determination. Through an ANC Minister Tito Mboweni and the res of the organisation, we have this new law which should be put in place without delay. We salute the COSATU members who led the struggle for a worker-friendly LRA.

1996 will see intense and bitter struggles. The BCEA, Insolvency Act and Wage Act are up for negotiations. This is the time for all of us to look at the demands we made during the Living Wage Campaign and the Platform for workers rights we adopted in the special congress of 1993.

We must ensure that through a massive campaign we win those de- mands. We must begin now to mobilise for a 40 hour week, reasonable lunch hours, minimum wage, year end holidays etc. We must ensure through these laws that we root out exploitation of workers from our society.

Tax and Workers

For far too long workers of this country have been carrying too large a part of the tax burden. The National Party government was basically taxing us to the grave which allowed the rich to get away with murder. Now is the time to shift the tax burden to where it belongs - the bosses.

As the new government moves towards the 1996/7 budget we should begin now to make our demands clear for all concerned to understand. We should no longer allow bosses to maintain their profits whilst we, the workers, pay on their behalf. We must also explode the myth that South African companies are paying high taxes by international standards. Many of the big conglomerates are avoiding tax responsi- bilities, SAPPI which yells at the top of its voice over the tax burden has been paying only 2% in taxation for the past ten years.

We demand:

No increase in VAT, no taxation on basic necessities such as food and medicines.

In many countries, employers invest in social infrastructure. In our country they do not. It is time to bring that to an end. Those who do not invest in development should be forced to pay through a development tax which could be used to uplift depressed areas.

The increasing wealth of the rich are not currently taxed, unlike many other countries. So while the limited resources of workers are double taxed - at PAYE/SITE and VAT, the biggest resource of the wealthy - their assets - are not taxed. We call for the introduction of a capital gains tax immediately!

A worker who earns R30 000 is subject to paying tax, while SME's and those who employ casual workers do not. The Government taxes people who earn R80 000 per year as if they are super rich, while those who earn millions pay modest taxes.

The government must shift the tax burden from us. We should remain ready for a major battle on these issues with the bourgeoisie as they are not gong to take these challenges lying down. Prepare for war on taxation.

Privatisation

Investors with their eyes on quick profits from the public, and the un-elected IMF/World Bank officials have been prescribing a remedy of doom to the new government. The same goes for the emerging black elite which is also fighting for the handing over of the state assets. They both claim to be doing it on our behalf. Some like Motlana's Nail are fronting for white investors. In case you think I am exaggerating, see Motlana himself explaining how he manufactures telephones, when he can't produce a hairpin. In the name of black economic empowerment, they wish to steal public resources and put it in the hands of a few black individuals.

We say NO! We will not take this lying down. We are opposed to the wholesale privatisation of state assets. We are ready to fight over this. We are not going to allow selfish minorities whether black or white to sabotage the government meeting our basic needs. Many of the parastatals play and must play a key role in meeting our basic needs like Transport, Health, Provision of Water etc. Those who claim to be wanting to provide cheap affordable transport must create their own companies and let Transnet alone. Those who claim to be ready to provide other basic needs must set up their own companies and must invest in infrastructure development rather than clamour for ESKOM, Water Boards, etc.

Conclusion

I hope all of us can see that we have a huge task ahead of us. To succeed in all of this, we need a strong organisation. Organisation is built up through campaigns. We will therefore have to move out of here and mobilise workers and the community around: the living wage; taxation; jobs for all; anti-privatisation; health and safety; constitution-making, worker rights and democracy.

Above all we need to service our membership. We should have no more complaints about bad service.

As I sit down, I must add my voice and pay tribute to all of you for coming to this historic rally. To you for building and defending COSATU over the years of struggle. To the international community who supported our struggle for liberation. To the SACP and the ANC for being there to give leadership and support when we needed them. To our former General Secretary Jay Naidoo with whom I worked and from whom I learned a lot.

The same goes for Sydney, who has always been my mentor. To Cyril, Chris, Godfrey and countless others. Le wena Makhula ga ke go lebale. To my staff, whom I pushed beyond the limit over the past few days. To the veterans such as Baba Kay of NUMSA, Baba Vilakazi of Chemical, Sisa Njikelana, Mam Lydia, Emma Mashinini, Polotho of NEHAWU, Dave Lewis, John Erntzen and others. To Elijah Barayi, who led us during the dark days.

We salute those trade unionists who have - in the face of many financial and other temptations - remained in the trade union movement.

As we toast and sing happy birthday to ourselves, let's also remember those who died in the mines - Kinross, Vaal Reefs, Middel- burg - at Thor Chemicals, in the shops and factories. Let us also remember Sam Ntambane, Neil Aggett, Andries Raditsela, Sam Ntuli, Phineas Sibiya, Simon Ngubane and scores of others who were killed by the apartheid regime. Your deaths have not been in vain. Because of you, COSATU continues to grow.

I thank you.

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