The South African Federation of Trade Unions held a scheduled meeting of its National Executive Committee (NEC) from 16-18 March 2018, attended by delegates from its affiliated unions and provincial structures and national office bearers. Among the issues discuss were:
1. Scrap The New Labour Laws’ Campaign: Workers hard-won gains are under attack!
The NEC met under the dark shadow of the biggest threat to South African workers since 1994.
Government, employers and leaders of labour organisations participating in Nedlac signed a deal behind the backs of the workers to introduce new laws, which, if passed by Parliament, will see workers’ constitutional right to strike curbed, their organisations tied up by petty regulations designed to ensure that workers never or find it very difficult to exercise their constitutional guaranteed right to strike. They have also signed a deal to introduce a national minimum wage that undercuts existing sectoral determinations and legitimises poverty pay and also entrenches the apartheid wage structure.
This is a declaration of war by employers, big business and their stooges in the leadership of sweetheart unions. These union leaders did this without a mandate even from their own members worst of all from workers who will be directly affected by these draconian provisions.
The key elements of the deal are:
1. A national minimum wage to be introduced from 1 May 2018 which will replace all the current sectoral determinations, and any benefits that they bestowed on workers, and entrench a poverty minimum wage on which nobody should be expected to live. The new minimum wages will be:
• R20 an hour for most workers
• R18 an hour for farmworkers
• R15 an hour for domestic workers
• R11 an hour for Extended Public Works staff
The union leaders who signed this sell-out deal claim this is major breakthrough! This deal says nothing about the massive salaries of the CEOs and politicians, whose representatives in Nedlac co-signed the agreement. The Deloitte accountants’ report revealed that the average pay of executives in the country’s top 100 companies is now R17.97 million a year, which amounts to R69 000 a day! If that is the average, there must be many who receive even more! Executives’ salaries have risen from 50 times to 500 times bigger than workers’ wages.
Many of the companies who are paying these grotesque amounts to their executives are the very ones which are demanding that the unions should agree to lower wages for their workers.
None of them would ever agree to subject themselves to such low salaries but are happy to impose them on workers.
SAFTU insists that the national minimum wage will do nothing except:
• To entrench the apartheid wage structure
• To keep millions of workers trapped in poverty and slave wages
• Widen income inequalities that have made our country the most unequal in the world
Whereas the idea of national minimum wage is a hard-won victory of workers’ struggle and will understandably be celebrated by many workers scandalously earning below these figures, the proposed NMW is a legislative attempt to pour cold water on the militant struggles of the immortal mineworkers, and the outsourced workers fighting for R12, 500 and R10 000 a month respectively.
2. In addition to this minimum wage, the Nedlac parties have launched the most savage attack on the constitutional right of workers to strike. It will mean that:
• Workers must be balloted secretly before they embark on a strike. This will give employers a free rein to interdict strikes based on allegations that in some part of the country there were mistakes committed during the balloting.
• Unions must engage in a long and extended conciliation process before they can strike
• Employers will have a right to approach the CCMA and the courts to force compulsory arbitration if in their view the strike is lasting too long and is having a big impact on the economy and the company concerned.
This will give employers enough legal reasons to stop any strike at all, even just by claiming that it will adversely affect their business, which is precisely what a strike is intended to do. It will turn workers into virtual slaves. It will unleash a war on workers’ rights, liberty and living standards.
The NEC resolved to treat the campaign to stop these bills being passed and enforced as SAFTU’s top priority and agreed to join the campaign to
#SCRAPTHENEWLABOURLAWS . We are calling on the COSATU, NACTU and FEDUSA rank-and-file members to break with the leadership sell-out deal and join our fight to defend their democratic rights and the trade union movement.
We shall campaign internally to educate all members of the dangers these amendments pose.
We shall bombard social media and radio stations to arouse people’s concerns.
We shall take legal advice on possibly interdicting the laws in court.
We know however that the only sure way to defeat an enemy attack is to take the fight to the streets.
So we shall mobilise and unite all workers, organised or unorganised, and irrespective of the federation they belong to, and resist this attacks on workers’ freedom to organize and withdraw their labour.
We shall be marching in Johannesburg on Wednesday 21 March, Human Rights Day, to remind this government that Workers’ Rights are Human Rights, and in Cape Town in a march to Parliament on 12 April and then organising a national general strike on 25 April and convening Provincial Shop Stewards Council in all provinces and march in all major city centers of our country.
2. May Day
The NEC agreed to hold the federation’s national May Day this year in Bloemfontein, under the theme:
Build workers’ unity for working-class power!
Mobiise against slavery national minimum wage and attacks on the right to strike!
Free quality public educational healthcare!
There will be smaller rallies in other cities and towns, to commemorate this international workers’ day, which will continue the campaign of rolling mass action against the labour law amendments
The meeting expressed its deep concern at the Listeriosis epidemic, which has already led to at least 183 deaths, a figure which may rise further. It was agreed that the prime cause is government’s failure to enforce public health laws on employers who are only interested on making profits. The working class and the poor are the main victims.
SAFTU supports the family that have initiative class action to sue the companies involved. We will do everything in our power to support them.
In addition to that we call for a full-scale investigation under Section 32 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act into the epidemic so that we leave no stone unturned in search of the truth so that the culprits are held accountable. Nothing short of the arrest of Tiger Brands CEO Mr Lawrence MacDougall will satisfy SAFTU and the victims of this tragedy. We will write a letter to the President and the Minister of Labour to make this request.
4. Prosecution of former President Jacob Zuma
SAFTU issued a statement during the NEC welcoming the reinstatement of 16 of the corruption charges against former president Jacob Zuma. The federation however still demand that Shaun Abrahams must be dismissed, in accordance with the High Court order, which also instructed then Deputy President Ramaphosa to appoint a replacement.
It was also agreed to demand that Mokotedi Mpshe, Abrahams’ predecessor, explain how his decision to withdraw these charges was “rational” or “lawful”. In our view Mokotedi Mpshe himself must be charged for defeating the ends of justice.
The NPA must now prosecute Zuma, the Guptas and their cronies for all the other alleged crimes uncovered by the former Public Protector, the GuptaLeaks emails and Jacques Pauw’s ‘The President’s Keepers’, but must prosecute not only public officials but also all those in the private sector who benefited from the arms deal and all the other cases of corruption.
5. New affiliates
The NEC approved the affiliation of six new unions and welcomed them into the SAFTU family. Nearly all were involved in the Workers Summit in 2016 and observers at the SAFTU Founding Congress in 2017. They have now obtained a mandate from their structures to affiliate. The unions are:
They have a combined additional membership of SAFTU of over 33 000.