South Africa’s biggest labour federation splits

By Crystal Orderson
Posted on Tuesday, 8 March 2016 17:20

The formation of the new federation would result in a major Cosatu split as affiliates would have to choose between the two.

Zwelinzima Vavi, the former Cosatu secretary general who was fired by Africa’s largest labour federation in 2014 for allegedly failing to carry out his duties, will lead the new federation to be unveiled on May 1.

Workers are crying out for an independent, fighting of organisation that works with the civil society

One of Cosatu’s major affiliates – the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) – would be one of the biggest members of the federation. Numsa’s Cosatu membership was nullified in 2014 following disagreements with the federation.

Vavi said the South African trade union movement had become fragmented and weakened, with only 24 percent of workers being members of any union.

“That is why there is such a groundswell of support for a workers summit and not just a new union federation but a fundamentally different one, based on worker control, internal democracy, non-racialism, gender equality, international solidarity and political independence,” he said.

Vavi said the new federation would shy away from politics and concentrate on representing interests of workers. Cosatu is part of South Africa’s ruling alliance with the African National Congress.

“Workers are crying out for an independent, fighting of organisation that works with the civil society that have ties with other trade unions fighting the same course all over the world that are not just politically independent,” he said.

A number of Cosatu affiliates including the Food and Allied Workers Union, South African Football Players Union, South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union, and Public and Allied Workers Union of South Africa are some of the unions that have been linked to Vavi’s initiative.

However, one of the biggest independent unions in the country, Solidarity says ‘the new federation should first of all be established and demonstrate its relevance.”

Solidarity’s Gideon du Plesssis said the new federation had been trying to lure his union but they had ideological differences.

“The founders have already been flirting with Solidarity for quite a while to win the union’s support and cooperation but on account of ideological and other differences, Solidarity will not join the federation; yet, in areas where we could share interests such as campaigns against corruption, electricity crises and service delivery, the new federation may certainly count on our support,” he wrote for Biznews.

Solidary pledged to work with Vavi’s in “campaigns for an end to the job-loss bloodbath, the casualisation and outsourcing of jobs and the banning of labour brokers and the scrapping the law on compulsory annuitisation of workers’ money invested in provident funds.”

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