Cosatu Special: Cosatu, the advance federation

Cosatu, the advanced federation!Aubrey ka Saki

When Guy Ryder’s voice sounded on those microphones, everyone started realising that the struggle waged by Cosatu both in South Africa and beyond had indeed touched trade unions globally. Ryder, the general secretary of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) said that Cosatu is held as the most advanced trade union federation on the African continent. “African trade unions”, said our distinguished guest, “and some other countries look to Cosatu to pave the way”. Ryder told congress delegates of the clampdown on Zimbabwean unionists on September 15. The general secretary of the Zimbabwean federation
had landed up in hospital after been manhandled by police.The other leaders are still languishing in prison. All these are symptoms of a maniac whose rule undermines human values.Ryder urged Cosatu to support the ICFTU on September 22 when it holds world-wide demonstrations against the Mugabe government. Foreign military incursions in Iraq and Palestine were also slammed openly by Guy Ryder. He called on all third world countries to give moral support and intervention to stop this malady. “The Rwandan genocide should never be allowed to take place again”, he said.

The reds have spoken Mlungisi Tikolo

The general secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP), Blade Nzimande’s address on the third day at the Cosatu congress was one of the fieriest ever. Ibomvana (communist) ascended to the stage to tremendous applause from Cosatu delegates. He noted that our congress takes place when our national democratic revolution (NDR) faces a challenging and complicated situation. At the heart of these challenges is the NDR’s direction and who should lead it. He was scathing in his attack of the black and white elite who have formed an alliance to entrench capitalist domination. Despite the positive advances of the democratic government, the growing militancy of the working class struggles in the past two years express the frustration of the workers and the poor (working class). He also criticized the failure by the capitalist class to make a dent in the challenges that face the working class. He called for the congress to pass a resolution to establish a left-wing newspaper (workers and the poor news) as a tool in the broader battle of ideas. He indicated that Cosatu must maintain its independence as there is no contradiction in retaining independence and being part of the alliance though it’s not without tensions. Nzimande criticized those who want to reduce Cosatu to a “˜gum boots and overalls’ federation by not supporting broader working class struggles like the misuse of the rule of law and the support for Jacob Zuma. Nzimande viciously attacked the elite who don’t want the SACP and Cosatu to influence the ANC’s succession debate so that they can decide who their candidate should be. He also noted the alliance was dysfunctional on the issue of implementation and said that must be addressed. On the issue of foreign direct investment (FDI) he said that it had failed to have any direct impact on job creation except for the ABSA swallowing by Barclays Bank as well as a few other negligible deals. The nationalisation of Sasol was top priority because it produces about 40% of our oil and yet its price is linked to international prices. He also called for the intensification of skills development, ABET as well as free and compulsory education up to grade 12. On the HIV/Aids pandemic, he called for a holistic approach and not to emphasise nutrition over treatment and vice versa. Lastly Nzimande reminded delegates about the SACP’s Red October campaign around public transport and other crucial issues and made special mention of the once-off amnesty for defaulters at credit bureaux.

Learning from CosatuPhilip Sapud

ICFTU general secretary Guy Ryder congratulated Cosatu on its increase in recruiting new members. He said that internationally there are not many trade unions that can report a 4% increase. “Those that are, are giving themselves slaps on the back, but you are saying that is not good enough!”He applauded Cosatu for maintaining its powerful commitment to intensify its campaign for quality jobs and the fight against poverty. He said that Cosatu was not the only one to set targets to halve jobs and poverty by 2015. The whole world had set these at the United Nations (UN) in the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
He pointed out the striking parallels between Cosatu and the UN. While Cosatu was sticking with its commitment, internationally the campaign was “failing miserably”.Turning to world-wide trade union unity, he told Cosatu delegates that the ICFTU and the World Confederation of Labour (WCL) would dissolve at the end of October. Together with a number of non-affiliated trade unions from other countries, it would join on November 1 in Vienna to form the International Trade Union Confederation. This would be the realization of an ambition of more than half a century to unify democratic and independent trade unions.

Fight globalization like you fought apartheidJenny Grice

“The experience of your struggle against apartheid contributed enormously to the development of the international trade union movement,” general secretary of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions’ (ICFTU), Guy Ryder told delegates. The apartheid struggle forced Cosatu to confront “our world movement with key issues and key questions – how to reach out over established divisions, how to confront business across borders; how to turn numerous resolutions into global action.” He said that with the advantage of hindsight, the international trade union campaign against apartheid
“offered us all a glimpse of what our movement needed to become” to fight the world-wide challenge of globalization.Globalization has tilted the balance of power in favour of capital. It “protects commercial and financial interests” but ignores social dimensions like workers’ rights. If you infringe the World Trade Organisation (WTO) there are strict measures taken against you but if you violate labour standards, “expect a slap on the wrist from the international community and be told not to do it again” – one more for capital, one less for labour.