Congress Conversations

CONGRESS CONVERSATIONS With debates towards Numsa's 8th National Congress hotting up, here are ideas from writers to provoke debate in your workplace, your local or region.

Are the local dispute committees able to decide on the merits of the cases?Thousands of cases or disputes are being referred to the regional legal department late, which then require Numsa's legal department to apply for condonation.

Not all requests for condonation are approved by the Council for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CMA), the Disputes Resolution Centre (DRC – the equivalent body in the motor sector) and the Centre for Dispute Resolution (CDR – the equivalent body in the engineering sector).

The reason – some disputes have no merit of success and the Local Dispute Committees (LDCs) failed to detect the problems with the cases. Why is this the case? According to Eugene Mutileni, one of Numsa's National Legal Officers, the LDCs are not trained to make these decisions. He says that the local organisers should take control and consult the LDC on the merits of the case.

He says that this should happen without undermining the principle of worker control.He further recommended that to solve this problem the LDCs be given basic training on the Labour Relations Act (LRA), the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) and case management.

According to the KZN regional educator Themba Mchunu, case management training should be given immediately. Labour legislation should be regarded as a medium term solution and case law as a long term solution.

A seminar on arbitration skills should also be offered.However it will be important for Cosatu unions, especially Numsa to identify a pool of shop stewards at local level to be trained on the above highlighted training needs.Bonga Ngwane, KZN region

Questions for discussion:What do you think of these proposals to improve the capacity of the Local Dispute Committees?What other suggestions do you have?

How can we help LDCs withstand pressure from comrades who have been fired but whose case is hopeless, from being forced to take up their case?What guidelines can help LDCs make these decisions?

Employment equity at the factory level!Transformation is one of the serious challenges the organisation is facing, but now there is a secondary challenge.

As much as we support blacks, previously disadvantaged persons (PDGs) to be empowered so that they can be suitable candidates to redress the mess left by the apartheid regime in the workplace, the psychologically rigid white bosses in the factories have fabricated other devices to escape the government act.

Now they divide the working class so that we cannot support our fellow comrades who fill these diverse categories at all levels in the workplace with the intention to redress the mess.

They do this during leadership development programmes by exerting too much pressure on them and by influencing the workers to turn their backs upon these black candidates so that the bosses can prove them incompetent and incapable.

For example if one black has embarked on a trainee supervisor programme and the manager is white, he will make sure that he pressurises the black candidate to a point where he will give up.

Or the manager will mobilise other candidates that he favours to create a situation where all workers reporting to that black candidate turn their backs on him, instead of supporting him or her.

For example while we are working with production targets the black candidate will be pressurised to a point where he or she will take stress leave. Whilst he or she is on leave, targets will be dropped so that workers can achieve them.

The manager will then recommend the candidates that are management favourites. This happens even to those employed so that they cannot be recognised for promotion or appointment to other levels and categories in the workplace.

The organisation will warn those comrades that are to be considered for appointment and promotion not to forget their fellow comrades whenever the employers agree to move them up.

However most of them when they are there, maybe because of that pressure, they turn from black to even worse than Afrikaner white bosses.We need to come up with a remedy to cure this disease.

The unionised working class should support the promotion of one of its members as long as he or she is identified as a PDG.

In return that individual should always remember his or her background. Don't kick the ladder away once you are on top! Remember those that were building it with you.Kaya ka Yoko, VWSA

Questions for discussion:How can we promote employment equity but be sure that those promoted continue to be supportive of workers and trade unions?

The road to congress: are we capable of responding to the challenges ahead of us?Albert Lawrence analyses some of the issues to be resolved in the coming congress

South Africa is a country with a large pool of low skilled labour and a low pool of skilled labour. It is not surprising that wage differentials in South Africa follow closely on skills levels.

This means that the higher the skills required for a particular job, the higher the wages paid, argues Simon Kimani Ndungu, senior researcher, labour market transformation programme from Naledi.

According to Ndungu approximately 80% of those earning more than R8000 per month are legislators, senior officials, managers, professional, technical or associate professionals and clerks.

Elementary occupations and domestic workers are earning R2500 or less per month. (Stats SA, 2008:25) Hlekiso and Mahlo (2006:11) emphasise the connection between wages and skills and argue that occupations that require higher skills ordinarily attract higher median wages.

Mike Schussler says earnings disparities follow the law of “supply and demand”. Numsa wage increases have not adequately addressed the above. What is the impact of low wages? Poverty reverses economic growth.

Contradictions The statistics on economic growth show that despite workers (Africans in particular) earning less, the economy of the country has grown by 4% since 2000.

Despite the democratic breakthrough in 1994 that opened the political space and trade unions gaining organisational and bargaining rights, the lives of workers did not improve as expected.

Globalisation brought about restructuring, retrenchments and informalisation of work in the form of casualisation, outsourcing, sub-contracting and growth in informal survivalist employment.

There are core and non-core workers created by globalisation. There is a union contest for non-core workers. Economic policy making in South Africa is characterised by the absence of consultation.

The National Bargaining Conference (NBC) of April 2007 called for an end to skewed employment equity which favours the elevation of white females and a return to transformation employment equity.

Based on the above can we as a union identify our progress in terms of implementing the declaration? The union resolution says that 10% of the union's income must be spent on education and training.

However there is no distinction between staff and shop stewards' training. So it means that staff training + shop steward training = 10% of the union's income.Shop stewards must get the same opportunities of training offered to staff, at a cost to the union.

The most important education for shop stewards that must be added to the current programme is socio-economic education for shop stewards. The socio-economic issues are covered by more than 10 Acts and regulations.

Now we must expand our training to cover governance issues that will assist in addressing socio-economic issues. Relevant Acts apart from the LRA are the Accounting, Tax and Finance Acts, NCA, FICA, Income Tax Act, NSFAS Act, PPP Framework Act, Business and Insurance Acts, Consumer Affairs Act, Medical Schemes Act, UIF.

The union does not have a resolution on the type of curriculum at school level. If we can have a resolution and programme of action on implementing the resolution and ensuring that government Acts are part of our early childhood education we will be able to respond better to the situation in the future.

National congress The coming union congress should address the following questions: * to what extent and in what ways have trade unions been changed by the transition? * how have unions impacted on the process? * how does the current climate and changing responses of trade unions impact on workers' control and internal democracy? * what are the weaknesses and strengths of this period? * what forms of trade unionism are characteristic in this period?* how far have we gone in implementing resolutions that we have already adopted?


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