NewsSouthern AfricaCourt compels South Africa's largest labour union to hold Special Congress


Posted on Monday, 11 May 2015 15:24

Court compels South Africa's largest labour union to hold Special Congress

By Crystal Oderson in Cape Town

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has been forced to hold a special congress, after it reached an out of court settlement with some of its disaffected affiliates.

Cosatu said it will now hold a special general congress in two months following a protracted court case, where an agreement was reached Monday.

We long agreed to this congress. These unions have missed an opportunity to prepare

The warring parties within the federation, led by the expelled National Union of Metalworkers (NUMSA) and eight other unions, reached a settlement in what has been hailed as a victory by some, but Cosatu insists it was simply an "academic victory".

Parties to the settlement included the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU), the Democratic Nursing Organisation (DENOSA), and the South African Professional Footballers' Union (SAPFU).

Following the settlement, the trade unions' mother body will hold a congress on July 14 and 15.

The court action was led by several unions, which have boycotted Cosatu's central executive committee meetings and other activities for the past few months.

The parties appeared before a Judge at the South Gauteng High Court, where they reached the settlement that compels Cosatu president, Sdumo Dlamini, to adhere to requests made by the group of unions.

"What we have today is an out of court settlement, it's not that there is an order by the court for Cosatu to convene the special congress," Cosatu president, Dlamini said.

"We long agreed to this congress. These unions have missed an opportunity to prepare."

He said NUMSA will not be party to the congress and there will be a discussion around unity of the federation.

NUMSA general secretary, Irvin Jim said they had made a settlement proposal to Cosatu last week.

The union insisted Monday's court settlement on the federation's special elective congress is a "victory".

"I think we are extremely happy and we do not need Sdumo to tell us it's not a victory," Jim said.

The union believes the special congress will allow the rank and file of Cosatu – its ordinary members – to decide on leadership issues, other key policy issues and also possibly vote on whether NUMSA should be reinstated as an affiliate.

Africa's largest trade union federation, with 2.2 million members, has been in disarray since it expelled its largest affiliate, NUMSA last year.

The federation also expelled its outspoken secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi.

Meanwhile, NUMSA said it would head to court to fight to be reinstated as a Cosatu affiliate. The matter is expected to be heard next week.

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