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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Central Exec  |  COSATU Press Statements


28 November 2003

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) has just ended a meeting of its Central Executive Committee (CEC). It took place just days before the federation celebrates its 18th anniversary and the release of the historic recording of workers' music , Solidarity Forever, on 1 December, and a few months before we celebrate ten years of democracy and hold national and provincial elections.

It was also the first CEC since the historic 8th National Congress and its main task was to develop an implementation strategy to take forward the Consolidating Working Class Power for Quality Jobs - Towards 2015 programme and other resolutions of the Cong ress.

In taking forward the 2015 plan and the other decisions of the 8th National Congress the CEC arrived at the decisions below:

Plan of Action

The CEC adopted a detailed strategy for the next three years to implement its 12-year programme towards 2015. Central to the programme is to build COSATU and strengthen the collective power of the organised workers and working class in general. Elements of our political programme include strengthening the alliance, improving our participation on governance issues, building the ANC and SACP, strengthening the mass democratic movement, and developing strategies for business and ideological contestation.

Central to our organisational programme is the need for continuous organisational development, strengthening our capacity to provide service to members, a concrete recruitment strategy, building unity within and outside COSATU and achieving the realising o ur vision for =91one country one federation' and =91one union one industry one union'.

Job retention and creation would be at the centre of our socio-economic strategies. We seek to build our capacity for sectoral interventions and monitoring and ensuring implementation of the GDS agreements.

Living Wage Campaign

The previous CECs had adopted a framework for the coordination of our Living Wage Campaign. This CEC spent considerable time making an assessment of the campaign in the past two years, in order to consolidate the key demands of COSATU for wage negotiations in 2004 and beyond.

The CEC noted with concern that workers have generally taken a pounding. Overall wages increased around 2% less than inflation in 2001-2002, with part-time workers seeing the biggest losses. The minimum wage is still below R2500 in most sectors, well below Supplemented Living Level (SLL) for 2002 for a family of 5, which was at R2330, 89. Amongst the worst paying sectors are clothing, cleaning, domestic labour and farming. Sectoral determinations remain far below a living wage, providing some relief, but no t enough to sustain a family.

Unemployment has continued to rise and workers have to support more dependants with their wages. Pay has, on average, declined in real terms in the past two years, even though productivity has risen. Meanwhile the chief executive officer of many companies including those in the public sector continues to award themselves increases well above inflation. We fully agree with President Thabo Mbeki when he said, "inappropriate rewards for top management are a concern in both the private andpublic sectors".

This means that the country is not closing the apartheid wage gap and other inequalities we inherited from the apartheid. In simple terms the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer.

As part of implementation of our 2015 plan, in 2004 we shall pursue the following demands.

  1. We shall demand increases related to CPI as against CPIX.
  2. We shall seek to settle at 2% - 3% above CPI to compensate for the decline in our wages in 2001 - 2002.
  3. We shall fight against outsourcing, subcontracting and for tight regulation of labour brokers. The employers are increasingly casualising labour as part of a deliberate strategy to undermine our collective strength and advances. In this regard we shall use all the victories and partial victories scored by our unions in this regard in 2002, including the recent strike led by SACCAWU. The CEC saluted SACCAWU for the success of its national strike at Shoprite Checkers. It was a shining example for all other unions of how to take forward COSATU policies on defending part-time and =91casual' workers and will have given heart to thousands of workers.
  4. We shall use more the provision of the LRA to demand disclosure of information including using the provisions of the Information Act to compel companies to disclose information on salaries of senior executives and in that way expose the extent of the do uble standards and escalating apartheid wage gap.
  5. We shall push for agency shops in order to discourage free riders that benefit immensely from the collective strength of our members. The recruitment campaign will be intensified to reach the targets set by the 2015 plan.
  6. We shall demand a package of measures to deal with the HIV and AIDS epidemic. We shall negotiate for a workplace policy that ends discrimination of those affected and infected by HIV and AIDS. As part of companies' comprehensive prevention and treatment we shall demand counselling facilities and provision of antiretrovirals at the workplace.
  7. We shall between now and February define in more detail what we mean by a living wage. This will include both wage and non-wage demands. We shall publish annual surveys in ways that involve our members on economic developments and how they affect worker s and their living standards.
  8. We accept that our living wage can never succeed if our organisations are not strong and if we fail to build a sense of belonging and solidarity amongst members.


The 8th National Congress had instructed the CEC to discuss the forty-three socio-economic resolutions that could not be dealt with in the congress. These were discussed. A separate booklet will publish once editing has been finalised. These include resolu tions on trade negotiations between SACU and US government, actions to be undertaken by labour on mobilising against HIV and AIDS, demands for accessible basic services, etc.

World Cup 2010 bid

Irvine Khoza, Chairperson of the SA 2010 World Cup bid committee, addressed the CEC. He thanked COSATU for their support for the bid and its General Secretary for participating in the reception party for the FIFA Inspection Team. The CEC assured him of tha t COSATU members will be ambassadors for the bid and those on international visits would need to be briefed on the case for the bid.


The meeting discussed plans to ensure that in next year's elections we achieve an overwhelming victory in every province for our alliance partner, the African National Congress (ANC). Reports were given of COSATU's involvement in the process of drawing up the ANC's list of candidates. It is striving to ensure a strong presence of workers and socialists to keep us pressure on the next ANC government to deliver on its commitments and keep the national democratic revolution on track. The CEC also rededicated i tself to play a full role in the voter registration campaign.

The CEC adopted a framework outlining COSATU's approach to the election manifesto. The manifesto must prioritise commitments to ending unemployment and poverty and make strong commitment to combat HIV and AIDS.

On HIV/AIDS, the CEC agreed that the manifesto should be based on the ANC Conference resolution on AIDS and entrench government's commitment to roll out anti- retrovirals.

Proudly South Africa

The CEC noted that a further section 77-notice meeting is to be held with the retailers on Monday 28 November 2003. COSATU intend to implement the undertakings it made in the Growth and Development Summit and lead a campaign during the festive season to en courage consumers to buy locally produced goods in order to protect and create jobs in South Africa. In this regard we have already held six regional shop stewards councils and three will be held this weekend to mobilise members behind this campaign.

Patrick Craven Acting COSATU Spokesperson