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SACCAWU’s RESPONSE TO COSATU Press release on COSATU CEC

COSATU’s statement contemptuous – SACCAWU

28 May 2015

SACCAWU’s RESPONSE TO COSATU Press release on COSATU CEC

The South African Catering Commercial and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU) remains one of the affiliates of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) in good standing and is one of its founding Unions. We do not ordinarily address internal matters through the media but we have, of late, noted that such commitment has been abused by some within the leading echelons of our Federation.

The statement of the 26th of May represents one of the worst forms of contemptuous treatment of our Union in the name of “totally rejecting lies spread by news bulletins about the attendance of Trade Unions affiliated to the Federation”. The statement; in question in the first place mentions SAFPU, SASAWU and FAWU as the only three Unions that were absent.

It then goes on to lecture SAFPU, FAWU, SACCAWU and PAWUSA on how to play their role. It is quite interesting that the four Unions that have been isolated for this public lecture are amongst those that had called for the convening of a Special National Congress to deal with the state of paralysis within the Federation.

It is blatant evidently factional and hypocritical for the authors of the statement to single out some unions as having some revolutionary responsibilities, as if not carried out, whilst leaving out those who attended the Special CEC meeting; as if they have no such an avalanche of organisational challenges currently warranting their urgent attention.

Whilst the statement claims to be refuting lies it unfortunately does so at the expense of the truth and the integrity of leading structures of our Union including its Central Executive Committee (CC) and the National Office Bearers (NOBs’) who are compelled to oversee implementation of decisions of the leadership collectives within the Union including Congresses and the CEC. The intentions of such glaring omission by the author of the statement are questionable in view of what we view as hypocritical sympathy with the plight of workers in the wholesale and retail sector.

The Federation, which is expected to coordinate solidarity amongst workers, does not seem to care about the ongoing job loss bloodbath which has engulfed sectors organised, particularly by SACCAWU, over the past three to four years. Whilst our Union is commanded to play its role in the Wholesale and Retail public hearings, presumably on minimum wages, as the statement suggests, a number of critical points on relentless struggles waged by workers in organised sectors and the role of the Federation and some of its affiliates are conveniently concealed by the authors of the statement.

For the record, the Federation did very little beyond symbolic press statements in our massive struggle against Walmart and what we term Walmartisation of the South African retail sector. Whilst the leadership of the Federation has over a number of years been taking the lead in Public Sector disputes, including leading their marches and being part of actual negotiations at times, they have condoned instances where the very same public sector union stewards and some members have crossed the picket line and insulting our members, in full regalia of their unions, during two COSATU Congresses when SACCAWU members at Southern Sun and Shoprite Checkers were on strike.

Further to this, the same Federation during one of the National Congresses at Gallagher Conference Centre used the services of a catering company which sourced from Karan Beef, when SACCAWU members where on strike and at the time exposed to the brutality of the SAPS conniving with management, notwithstanding SACCAWU raising this officially with the leadership. Affiliates who organise such workers were never subjected to any public lecture on principles of the trade union movement including solidarity derived from the international Battle Cry of the Labour Movement: AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL, which is in fact the motto of the very COSATU. Whilst the authors of the article belittle such struggles they claim to be concerned about the levels of minimum wages in the wholesale and retail sector yet they never lifted a finger when members of some affiliates acted with impunity during Congresses of the Federation.

The Constitution of the Federation identifies building solidarity by encouraging all workers to join progressive and democratic trade unions and to striving for a united working class movement regardless of race, colour, creed or sex. It further commits the Federation to encouraging industrial unions by forming broadly based industrial unions in all industries where none exist and to assisting unions operating in the same industry to merge into broadly based industrial unions.

The Constitution further commits the Federation to supporting affiliates by encouraging co-operation amongst affiliates, co-ordinating joint activities, creating a forum to achieve common goals and perform such actions as are necessary to achieve these goals. It further commits the federation to supporting affiliates by resolving dispute between affiliates and within the Federation as well as by instituting or defending legal proceedings affecting affiliates or the Federation. We have observed that the current state of paralysis has seriously compromised the Federation’s ability to carry out such critical functions.

We are thus compelled to conclude that the real motives that informed the article are the politics of coercion that are pursued by the dominant faction within the federation. These politics are, by their very nature, hostile to the self-activity of the working class hence their refusal to acknowledge struggles for a living wage that have been waged by workers in organised sectors as if it is only struggles that are sanctioned by such dominant faction that are revolutionary.

Worse still, the author/s of the statement ignore the fact that SACCAWU made a number of oral and written submissions on formulation and subsequent reviews of sectoral determinations in organised sectors without any support from the Federation whose spokesperson has the audacity to lecture the Union on minimum wages as if sectoral determinations are only about minimum wages; which are in most cases undermined by high levels of atypical employment in organised sectors in most cases with no guaranteed minimum number of hours for part-time workers.

Our Union is amongst those whose Executive structures have resolved not to attend meetings of the COSATU Central Executive Committee and reasons for such decision have been conveyed to the leadership of the Federation, in writing on more than one instance. We have on previous occasion advised the leadership of our Federation that genuine differences and/or mistakes are not subtle, covert and deliberately manifested as means to draw lessons from, as we could only learn from genuine but not manifested and deliberate “mistakes” clearly informed by self-serving intentions as opposed to the sacrosanct unity and cohesion of the federation, with some even going to the extents of openly and unashamedly declaring that they are prepared to take “calculated risks” . Such remarks of taking “calculated risks” were made in the very CEC meetings and seemed to enjoy support of the leadership as they were not challenged or rebuked then or even after the fact.

We have observed that conditions in the CEC have since worsened, with the dominant faction which is inspired by the politics of coercion aggressively pursuing its agenda including through legitimising unconstitutional decisions and practices foreign to structural processes, through a vote in a structure with no powers to amend the Constitution.

The slogan to “surgically remove” those who hold a contrary view is at the centre of the strategy of those practicing the politics of coercion as opposed to the politics of persuasion. It was never an omission or an error of judgement for the President to subject the call for a Special National Congress to the CEC, when in fact he is constitutionally bound to act on same once there are requests meeting Constitutional dictates.

The self-serving affiliates also pushed for the CEC to entertain such unconstitutional development, solely with a grave desire to undermine the Constitution and support the President in his refusal to convene the SNC. Whilst the current leadership of the Federation dismisses the significance of the Court Order on the Special National Congress, they conveniently forget the fact that a Special CEC meeting held on the 10th of February 2014 decided to decline the request for the Special National Congress.

Despite these recent acts of provocation we remain committed to reclaiming the Federation as an organ of struggle which appreciates the self-activity of the working class and actively coordinates solidarity amongst workers within the country and beyond. Our support for the convening of the Special National Congress is premised on this understanding and the need to effectively address the state of paralysis which has reduced the Federation into Federation of Special CEC meetings amongst other things. We are certainly not deterred by acts of vilification which the statement of the 26th of May, represents as part of a broader strategy by its authors.

Statement issued by SACCAWU National Office Bearers (NOBs’), May 28 2015

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