The South African Federation of Trade Unions has noted with anger the report in Business Day that the trade union federations represented in Nedlac’s labour constituency are “set to reject Saftu”, by refusing to accept its application for membership.
Nedlac executive director Madoda Vilakazi told Business Day that unless the federation can provide its audited financial statements, audited membership figures and other required documents its application would not be approved.
These are completely invalid reasons for such a decision. The three federations have invented admission requirements to deliberately exclude SAFTU and to block it from being part of the organization that formulates labour market policy.
In January 2017 the Nedlac executive council approved amendments suggested by the labour constituency, [SAFTU’s emphasis] on the criteria of prospective members, requiring that they be in existence for at least two years and can produce audited financial statements for that period.
This is despite the fact that more than 10 of the founding Affiliates of SAFTU have existed for more than 20 years.
The timing of the decision cannot be coincidental. It was just before SAFTU’s founding Congress, but it was already public knowledge that a new federation was about to be launched. This decision strongly points to it being a conscious political move to find reasons in advance to block a potential application from what was shortly to become SAFTU.
Nedlac however never requested SAFTU to submit such documents. Nedlac’s executive director even earlier claimed that it only received SAFTU’s application on 6 March 2018 when in fact it was sent on 10 May 2017 and he has confirmed to the federation’s General Secretary that they received it and have had it in their system.
This proves that Nedlac’s earlier excuse for excluding the federation – that “Saftu owes us papers” – was bogus. The new requirements were clearly designed to exclude SAFTU because it was only registered legally as a Federation in the first quarter of 2017. As it has been in existence for less than a year it cannot possibly have audited annual financial statements for two years.
We will be a year old soon – on 21 April 2018 – and we will after that be able to issue our first audited annual statements on both finance and membership.
On the question of its membership, the 24 founding unions that affiliated during its inaugural congress had full mandates from their structures had a total membership of 691 540 and this is our baseline membership.
For the purpose of our own internal records and accuracy of our membership we have embarked on a rigorous process of verifying this figure and by the next NEC in May we will have the exact verified total membership, and we have now being joined by a further six unions with a membership of just over 33 000.
The federation is convinced that the move to exclude SAFTU is not administrative, as claimed by the established federations, but a political ploy to find one excuse after another to block the affiliation of a new federation which will expose and oppose the class-collaborationist policies and sweetheart agreements with employers and government in Nedac over the last period.
This has been highlighted by their outrageous agreement on a poverty minimum wage of R20 an hour and amendments to labour laws which seek to paralyse unions and undermine workers’ constitutional right to strike.
SAFTU is determined to keep up the fight to be admitted to Nedlac and equally determined to use it as a platform to give voice to the workers’ anger at the shocking levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality, and in particular the abysmal failure of the leaders of the older federations at Nedlac to stand up for their interests.
This whole episode has proved once again how necessary and urgent it has become to build a genuinely independent, democratic and militant workers’ federation to wage war against employers and government, whose pro-capitalist, free-market policies have led us into the economic catastrophe confronting workers and the poor majority of South Africans.