04 December 2020
The Leadership of the Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) at their National Executive Committee (NEC) on Wednesday, 02 December 2020 made a number of weighty decisions around organized labour issues, especially the launch of a Labour Desk by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
At the heart of the matter is the opportunistic behaviour of political parties masquerading as trade unions and labour federations, who are successfully able to solve COVID TERS payments that remain outstanding. This is a totally irresponsible attitude, leading to the creation of dangerous expectations and the disparaging of bona fide workers’ representatives.
FEDUSA unconditionally subscribes to the principle of Justice, Fairness and Equity in the workplace but the EFF’s Labour Desk intervention has actually triggered just the opposite outcome – job losses on the ground and placing hundreds of jobs on a precarious footing as a direct result of populist rhetoric
A recent case in point is the incident at the ZZ2 farm in Limpopo – the largest tomato producer in the world – where a contingent of red berets barged in, intimidated and disparaged union representatives – before promising workers heaven and earth. In reaction, the owner has now threatened to dismiss workers, thanks to the populist unionism of the EFF Labour Desk that has been hurriedly concocted on the eve of local government elections.
The ZZ2 incident and similar incidents in Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the EFF Labour Desk should leave labour matters to bona fide labour formations in all economic sectors where workers are represented by their recognised and registered unions and federations. Jeopardising work security is unwarranted especially now that South Africa engages in a reconstruction and recovery process after the hard lockdown.
FEDUSA’s position is sustained by the historic ruling by Acting Labour Court Judge Sean Snyman in the matter between Calgan Lounge versus NUFAWSA (National Union of Furniture and Allied Workers Union of South Africa) in which the EFF attempted to intervene in workplace issues through a letter and memo to the employer written on its letterhead following an impromptu visit to the employer’s premises, outlining various demands and grievances. In the letter, the EFF claimed to have been mandated by the workers to act on their behalf on a plethora of demands and grievances.
However in response the employer – Calgan Lounge – urged workers to follow procedures prescribed by the Labour Relations Act (LRA) to communicate their grievances, something that infuriated the EFF which then arrived at the employer’s premise the following day and held a mass meeting that culminated in a Memorandum of Demands.
The memorandum was again typed on an EFF letterhead accusing Calgan Lounge of exploiting and victimizing workers, and subjecting them to appalling and unethical working conditions; to which the employer responded by seeking an urgent court interdict this time around and the Labour Court ruled against NUFAWSA and the EFF.
In delivering his ruling, Judge Snyman remarked that:
“A political party cannot derive powers to interfere in the workplace from the Constitution as the rights contained in the Constitution are given effect to, by a piece of legislation – in this case – the LRA and that the LRA has specifically designated the task of dealing with workplace disputes and grievances to employers’ organisations, trade unions and workplace forums. Political parties do not form part of this structure”.
Second, Judge Snyman noted that: “trade unions are registered under the LRA to ensure that they fulfil the duties prescribed to them under the LRA which also regulates their conduct. When a political party attempts to fulfil the role of the trade union, it bypasses all the regulations with which a trade union must comply; and that the political party’s interference undermined orderly collective bargaining and dispute resolution procedures which is the cornerstone of the LRA. This has the effect of instability in the employment environment”.
When it comes to the political party and its functionaries, it simply should not stick in its nose where it does not belong; nothing in this judgement can serve to in any way prejudice the legitimate functions and activities of the political party in the arena where it belongs, concluded Judge Snyman.
In an economic climate intensified by S189 retrenchment processes, triggered by COVID 19, the role of trade unions and federations becomes increasingly crucial. FEDUSA will therefore continue to focus on labour market stability, job retention and job creation processes for all its affiliated unions. Leave worker issues in the hands of elected worker leaders, focussed on principles not populism.
FEDUSA’s influence as a major player in the world of work has been further reinforced by the recently cabinet-confirmed appointment of its General Secretary, Ms Riefdah Ajam to the CCMA Board. “A capable state is realised with all role-players, including political parties, understanding their own respective mandates as enshrined within the Constitution and applicable structures. My mandate on the CCMA Board will be to give life to the FEDUSA principles of Fairness, Justice and Equity in the workplace, and from that goal I will not waiver. Workers can be assured that sticking with FEDUSA will do them good.” Ajam stated.
For interviews please contact:
Ms Riefdah Ajam
FEDUSA General Secretary
079 696 2625
Mr Ashley Benjamin
FEDUSA Deputy General Secretary
083 258 4433
FEDUSA Media and Research Officer
072 637 8096