27 March 2015
The 70th National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of theFederation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) coincided with World TB Day and the launch of the national campaign, “Ending South Africa’s TB Epidemic”, said FEDUSA General Secretary Dennis George. FEDUSA President Koos Bezuidenhout chaired the NEC meeting, which was attended by the Affiliate Presidents, General Secretaries and other additional NEC senior affiliate delegates.
Sadly, the NEC conveyed it deepest condolences to Heloise, wife and Inge daughter of the NTEU President, who passed away. Jacques Wessels will be remembered as a fighter for decent work and decent life for all, specifically by his academic colleagues in the higher education sector. Wessels was a great believer of the Theory X and Theory Y assumptions that workers will contribute more to the organisation and workplace if they are treated with respect as responsible and valued employees, said George.
FEDUSA supports the National Strategic TB Plan, aimed at mobilising the nation to be screened for TB at least once a year, and argues that it is imperative to care for those who are infected. The Federation calls on all our hardworking health workers, the doctors and nurses, to assist the country in keeping the population healthy and devoid of TB, added George. Naturally, TB specifically affects workers and their families because of socio-economic conditions, particularly difficulties in the mining and agriculture sectors, and it is essential to promote decent work and decent life for all.
The FEDUSA NEC also discussed the progress report of the Nedlac Labour Relations Task Team, pertaining to proposals by Government to limit the duration of protected strikes, forcing the parties to utilise arbitration as well as strike ballots using sealed ballot boxes and verification processes conducted by the CCMA. The vicarious liability legislation, which confers responsibility upon unions in respect of damages caused by striking workers during marches and picketing, was also discussed intensively – as this approach would make it exceedingly difficult for trade unions to function. The FEDUSA NEC has mandated our chief negotiator, Leon Grobler, who served on the Nedlac Labour Relations Task Team, to be vigilant insofar as our position based on empirical evidence. Many neoliberals are attacking worker rights daily, said George.
The NEC recognised, with great concern, that these attacks are fuelled by headlines that consistently portray South Africa as a country that is hobbled by strikes. However, these headlines – news stories, radio reports and television reviews – fail to mention the well-publicised excessively high executive pay, as a contributory factor to these strikes. Some headlines describe the country as being gripped by upheaval due to violent, relentless industrial action, or blame strikes for causing spiraling currency depreciation. The Marikana incident in August 2012, further fuelled the opinion that South Africa is “strike-prone,” and a “striking nation,” when compared with other countries.
But, by using actual data and some simple comparative statistics, one can demonstrate that South Africa is not strike-prone, a striking nation or hobbled by strikes. FEDUSA has, on numerous occasions, challenged these common perceptions and found them to be based on myths. Using the available labour statistics between the periods 1999 and 2008 (published by the International Labour Organisation, ILO), evidence suggests that it is not true that South Africa’s long-term labour movement is one of the most excessive and strike-prone country in the world. The standard measurement for the severity rate of strikes used by Laborsta, published in European Union reports and frequently used by analysts is “rates of days not worked” calculated as the number of working days lost as a result of strikes and lockouts per 1,000 general workers per year, said George.
By using this measure, it is worth noting that South Africa’s long-term strike rate ranks fifth in the world with 206 days lost per 1,000 workers. Lithuania ranks first (5,295 days) , followed by Argentina (1,042 days), Israel (631 days) and New Caledonia (279 days), who all rank well above South Africa, said George.
The FEDUSA NEC has also approved the appointments of three more specialist officer positions to further strengthen support for our Affiliates in the areas of the Social Justice, Research and Policy Development and Training and Education, which must all be filled by 1 May 2015. Activating these positions will considerably enhance the already high standard of service delivery to our Affiliates through its respective FEDUSA Subcommittees, said George.
It was also decided, at the meeting, to strengthen the collaboration with the Confederation CONSAWU, through constructive leadership engagements to strengthen grassroots development, training and shop floor communication. This first high-level leadership meeting is scheduled for 7 April 2015 in Pretoria. The NEC has also welcomed the close collaboration with the independent trade unions in the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council, and has supported the call for mediation to settle the wage dispute. FEDUSA stands entirely behind our public servants and realises the important role our teachers, nurses, and policy administrative staff play in the lives of our workers and country.
Excitingly, a further milestone which FEDUSA, as the second-largest trade union federation in South – and Southern Africa (founded on the 1st April 1997) is about to achieve, is that it is turning 18 years old! As its “maturity” is an important milestone, it will also bring with it the expectation of a certain level of advancement and responsibility. Responsibility is the main consideration that is needed from the labour movement to advance decent work and a decent life for all. Therefore, the leadership has decided, post the inputs and discussions at its Senior Leadership Indaba held from 19 – 20 January 2015, and attended by the majority of the Affiliate Presidents and General Secretaries who participated and provided insight and wisdom to serve its affiliates’ members better, to utilise the capacity-building process to empower shop stewards to organise roadshows. These sessions, to be held in various regions, will allow the federation’s leaders to interact with the grassroots structures to stimulate sound labour relations and productivity enhancement for job creation, poverty eradication and inequality, according to George.
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FEDUSA is the largest politically non-aligned trade union federation in South Africa and represents a diverse membership from a variety of sectors in industry. See www.fedusa.org.za for more information.
Dennis George (FEDUSA General Secretary) 084 805 1529