6 December 2021
The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA)’s Special Congress which concluded on the East Rand today has elected a new leadership collective. The following members have been duly elected as the new National Office Bearers for the next five years:
President: Mr Masele Godfrey Selematsela (returned unopposed)
Deputy President: Ms Martle Keyter (returned unopposed)
Vice President Development: Mr Jacques Hugo (returned unopposed)
Vice President Finance: Mr Chris Klopper (returned unopposed)
Vice President Training and Education Committee: Mr. Basil Manuel
Vice President Gender and Social Justice: Ms Nobandla Silinyane
Vice President Public Sector Committee: Mr Pierre Snyman
The Special Congress also adopted a package of new strategic resolutions that will take the federation forward over the coming years. These resolutions include the Climate Change Policy. The Policy represents the federation’s formal commitment to address the climate change crisis that has engulfed South Africa, the region and the globe. It is also the culmination of a series of the federation’s climate change workers over the past 10 months across the key sectors in which it draws its membership such as water, mining, transport and energy. These sectoral workshops were held under the Theme: “No Jobs on a Dead Planet; Just Transition Now”.
Jacques Hugo, FEDUSA’s Vice President for Development stressed that workers’ demand for justice during the transition to a low carbon economy can remain a mere rhetoric but a basic necessity that should be supported by executable strategies such as the federation’s Climate Change Policy.
“Moreover, we need to act urgently as the ecological crisis continues to deepen, presenting fears and uncertainties for the current and future generations. This is because climate change has adverse impacts on bio-physical environment, marine life, rainfall and weather patterns including unpredictable tectonic plate movements which exert pressure on water aquafers and result floods. Psychologically, this has resulted in a ‘shifting baseline’ effect particularly among the young and future generation,” said Hugo.
Among strategic resolutions adopted were the one on local procurement in which Congress resolved that at least 70% of goods and services are procured locally, the urgent implementation of the generic objectives of the Master Plans and their sector specific ones and a lobby for the transformation of ownership patterns and production processes. Such a strategy is designed to assist small – scale farmers in the poultry and sugar sectors, bringing more black – owned cut, make and trim plants in the textiles sector online and assist new entrants into original equipment manufacturing. An economy in which more and more people of working age are without jobs is not only unsustainable but is also a recipe for social explosion in the form of destruction of factories, infrastructure and existing jobs similar to the one the country witnessed during the bread riots of July 2021.
Congress also strongly advocated for a human – centred economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that needs employment and social protection policies to work in tandem, not only to improve people’s living standards, but also to help them navigate the challenges of a rapidly changing world of work and the transition towards the goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. To this end, the Federation will encourage and campaign for all workers and South Africans to embrace the government’s Vuma Vaccination Campaign so that any new variant always finds them fully vaccinated.
In addition, the Federation and affiliate structures will avail resources to educate all workers and the broader public about the importance of being vaccinated and the link to job creation and poverty alleviation.
Congress also resolved to strengthen the work of FEDUSA representatives at NEDLAC in order to advance, influence and urgently fast track social protection for all workers through the Comprehensive Social Security and Retirement Reform negotiation process. Most vulnerable and marginalised South Africans are denied access to social insurance and private savings. The vast number of the South African population is either unemployed or atypically employed and therefore not covered by the occupational based social insurance schemes. This therefore contributes to the reliance on State social assistance benefits. The harsh reality of State benefits is that they are only afforded to children, persons with disabilities and the elderly.
FEDUSA and its affiliates also resolved to prepare members strategically for the 4th Industrial Revolution and the digital economy by ensuring that all future collective bargaining processes factor in demands for training, upskilling and reskilling in the new technologies. Although the adoption of artificial intelligence in developing countries will see the undigitizable segment of the labour market split into a high wages skilled labour force and a low wages unskilled labour force, the extensive sweep of the 4th industrial revolution will still require the constant upskilling and reskilling of those workers fortunate enough to remain in the same occupations. Automation will exacerbate wealth inequality as the super-rich spend their money on gadgets and robots to insulate themselves against technological disruptions and also require innovative mechanisms of social protection and tax collection; as incomes are spirited away from labour towards capitalists and the deployment of robots compound tax compliance.
On Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), Congress resolved that because crises such as the COVID19 pandemic occur without warning, it is vitally important for affiliated unions to regularly subject workplace OHS systems to robust capability and resilience tests while continuing to protect workers from the many existing OSH hazards and ensuring the continuity of economic activity. Recently, the government announced that it will investigate the feasibility of making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory and barring unvaccinated individuals from accessing specific facilities and areas. FEDUSA fully endorses those plans, however, the federation believes that the social partners of organised labour, business and government at NEDLAC should be given the opportunity of investigating the complexities of introducing mandatory vaccinations for workers and the general public. This should be in addition to investigating the feasibility of restricting access by unvaccinated individuals to shared spaces and public facilities such as workplaces, public transport, restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals and places of worships.
The outcomes of such investigations and consultations should strike a good balance between public health concerns, constitutional provisions, cultural and religious beliefs and the imperatives of economic recovery and reconstruction. An important area of focus for organized labour would be whether both the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act should be amended to include COVID-19 as an occupational disease that triggers fair compensation for affected workers.
For interviews please contact:
Mr Masale Godfrey Selematsela
083 653 3021
Ms. Riefdah Ajam
FEDUSA General Secretary
079 696 2625
Mr Ashley Benjamin
FEDUSA Deputy General Secretary
083 258 4433