COSATU declared on Monday that workers from the public and private sector should go on a strike on Wednesday 7th October 2020. The union’s general secretary, Bheki Ntshalintshali, affirmed that the strike would go on as planned until it resolves the underlying disputes it has with the government.
The current COSATU leader is Zingiswa Losi (President). Key debates include low wages that the government pays COSATU workers, inequality, Covid-19 related corruption, the corruption that involved the asbestos project in the Free State, and gender-based violence. The COSATU deputy president, Mike Shingange, asserted that the hospitals are understaffed; hence, health workers are overwhelmed by the massive responsibilities as they fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
During the COSATU strike, workplaces will be shut down because the success of the strike will be determined by the number of workplaces that will be closed rather than the number of workers who will participate in the strike.
Bheki stated that social distancing would be adhered to because pickets will be decentralized and spread across SA. The union has advised its members to file lawsuits against the companies that were proven to claim and receive money from the Covid-19 UIF Ters using fraudulent means. Below is a picture of Zingiswa Losi, the sitting COSATU president:
The COSATU salary increase 2020 balance has not been implemented entirely by the government per the multi-term wage agreement signed in 2018. The government frankly stated that it did not have the R37.8 bn to settle the debt. T COSATU trade union decided to engage the State in a court battle to hold it accountable for deliberately breaching its constitutional and statutory duties.
A brief history of COSATU
The suppression of communism act during the apartheid prohibited the establishment of legally recognized Black trade unions in South Africa until 1970s and 1980s. However, several trade unions existed before the formulation of this apartheid rule, but some failed.
The Council of Non-European Trade Unions (CNETU) (created in the 1940s) and Trades & Labour Council were among the trade unions that were formed before the 1970s. The implementation of the Suppression of Communism Act forced the Black members of Trades & Labour Council to move to the Trade Union Council of South Africa (TUCSA), which preserved the interests of white people. Below is Bheki Ntshalintshali, the current COSATU general secretary.
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In 1955, some TUCSA members joined CNETU to establish the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), while others moved to the ANC-led Congress Alliance. The State set the Industrial Conciliation Amendment Act in 1956 to ban Africans from joining registered unions because it was afraid of SACTU, a Black union that opposed apartheid.
ANC and SACP merged and formed uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in 1961, and most of the leaders of the new alliance were from SACTU. The government harassed and imprisoned many SACTU leaders and members during the early 1960s. A few more unions came up in the 1970s, but their activities were limited.
Dockworkers in Durban fought for the revival of trade unions in 1973; therefore, the Black unions were allowed to register. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) was formed on 1st December 1985 at the sports venue of the University of Natal by more than 760 delegates from 33 unions.
COSATU chairman at that time was Elijah Barayi, while the vice-chair was Chris Dlamini among other COSATU founders. The majority of workers selected COSATU logo, but they modified it later to acknowledge the role of female workers. The man in the image below is Mike Shingange, COSATU's current First Deputy-President.
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What are the goals of COSATU?
COSATU has similar ambitions to those of all trade unions in South Africa. It aims at providing social and economic justice for all workers. The union examines the impact of economic changes in the country to the workers and lays strategies that will secure the jobs of its members.
What is the role of COSATU?
South African trade unions have many roles. Below are some of the functions of COSATU:
- It protects workers from losing their jobs because of discrimination, economic crisis, and other reasons.
- The union ensures that employers implement equality in recruitment, remuneration, and more employee-related issues.
- It ensures that employers provide a safe and healthy environment for its workers.
- COSATU ensures that organizations develop the skills of their employees.
Strict and open policies guide COSATU membership registration. COSATU affiliates are autonomous bodies governed by their constitution, but they must abide by the constitution and the policies of COSATU. Affiliates can also be suspended or expelled from the federation. COSATU membership dropped from 1.9 million workers to 1.6 million in 2014. If you want to join the union, get COSATU contact details from its official website. The lady below is Louise Thipe, the Second Deputy-President of COSATU.
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Frequently asked questions
COATU strives to build a healthy and fair relationship between South African workers, employers and the government. Below are the answers to the frequently asked questions about the union:
Who does COSATU represent?
The union represents its members. These are the South African workers who need protection from manipulation and exploitation by employers (organizations) and the government.
What are the aims of COSATU?
COSATU embarked on fighting the apartheid oppression that Black South Africans were subjected to at workplaces. There are speculations that COSATU policies and political affiliations are associated with ANC and the South African Communist Party, named the Tripartite Alliance. However, COSATU states that it does not associate itself with any political parties.
What are the 3 largest trade unions in South Africa?
South Africa has several trade unions, but the most influential ones are:
COSATU is the largest trade union federation in South Africa. The federation’s past significant strikes and protests enabled it to accomplish multiple objectives that benefited its members. While some South Africans trust the union, others doubt whether its 2020 objectives will be achieved.
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