Dear Metalworkers,

I take the privilege on behalf of the national office-bearers of the militant, red National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa to greet and welcome you to this second edition of Numsa News.

We have just come from the National Bargaining Conference (NBC), the ultimate mandating forum for our negotiators in all sectors that are negotiating this year. The NBC is preceded by a vigorous process in which hundreds of general meetings take place where the owners of this union, the members, mandated you to truly represent them at the bargaining conference.

Hands off collective bargaining!
The NBC took place just as the Free Market Foundation went to the Constitutional Court to argue that collective bargaining agreements must not be binding on other employers who are not members of employer bodies.

The foundation has been there for many years and has published papers where they argued for the scrapping of collective bargaining and progressive labour legislation in our country. But in my recollection, this is the first time they have gone to the Constitutional Court. Why now?

Let me try and make sense of this action by Herman Mashaba, the man who made his money from hair products called “Black Like Me”. I thought long and hard, and recollected an analogy of what was happening in my province when the IFP was still fighting with the ANC.

When a member of ANC defected to IFP or vice versa, he or she would become the worst aggressor towards his/her former organisation in an effort to prove to the new organisation that he/she indeed belongs to them.

The moral of the story is that this man who used to sell hair products at the boot of his car in black townships has joined the capitalist class and he wants to prove that he can brutalise the working class better than capitalists who were born alists.

The other important observation is that workers must see, as we what we have always said, that all capitalists are the same – there is no better or worse one, black like me or white like them. We must take the campaign to the Free Market Foundation and Herman Mashaba to defend our hard-won rights.

Collective bargaining in 2013 is also taking place when the strikes in the mining and agricultural sectors strikes are still fresh in the minds of the owners of our union. It is a fact that collective bargaining after Marikana and De Doorns will never be the same.

It is fundamentally important to remember the struggles of these workers. We have felt the pain of the National Union of Mineworkers through the statements and a march of the Numsa Youth Forum that took place on that unfortunate Saturday, when Billy Zulu of Ceppwawu was attacked by people who claim to be leaders of workers in Rustenburg.

We did this out of love of workers and the class that they belong to, without expecting to be praised by anyone. We remain convinced that a worker that is not organised into a Cosatu union is unorganised.

The target of 400 000 members in 2016
We pride ourselves on the impressive growth in our membership and we remain resolute that we will achieve the target of 400 000 members when we go to our next congress in 2016. I am proud to inform you that we have surpassed 315 000 members as we gather here.

A logo for this important campaign will be unveiled here for comments and adoption by the special central committee meeting that will take place on Friday April 19 this year.

As trade unions, we are often accused of dabbling in politics more than we dealing with workers’ issues. We want to reiterate that Numsa’s founding principles not give us a choice: we must fight until economic exploitation is abolished. It is an undisputed reality that economic exploitation does not take place in a vacuum, but in a highly political environment.

It is the politicians who pass laws that allow capitalism to rise from the terminal illness that it has suffered. Politicians decided to bail out the banks in the United States and Europe; politicians allowed Europeans banks to undemocratically remove democratically elected leaders in Greece and Italy when they could not guarantee the implementation of austerity measures. In fact, as far as we are concerned, worker issues are political issues. We must refuse to be converted into a yellow union.

Our continued growth is proof that we are doing things in the way that our members expect us to do them.

Numsa and THE NDP
As Numsa, we are humbled by the number of voices within our alliance that agree with us that the NDP must be put back on the table and dissected once again. We are looking forward to Cosatu and Alliance processes that, in our view, should have taken place already.

I want to take this opportunity to clarify a few matters that have been wrongly reported. Numsa did not wake up in 2013 to engage with the NDP. Numsa engaged with NPC from the time that the chairperson of the commission was appointed.

Numsa released a statement after the publication of the diagnostic report.
Numsa invited Kuben Naidoo from the NPC secretariat to come to the union. He came and we engaged.

Numsa made a submission to the NPC and published its views on the Numsa website last year.
Through the Cosatu delegation, Numsa engaged in the commissions at the ANC conference in Mangaung.

Our view was that the planning commission was a victory for the left axis that worked within the ANC in Polokwane. Our thinking was that at least one person from the left should have led the planning commission, because it was always going to be better to have a person who believes in central planning by the state than a person who believes markets should be left alone.

We fully understand that the ANC is a multiclass organisation, but this we believed was an area that required the leadership of a person who believes in command planning by the state.

We had just defeated the Harvard group that was brought in to give legitimacy to Asgisa, which was a continuation of Gear. In our minds, to get a person who was the brainchild of the continuation of Gear by another name was a challenge.

After the intervention of Gwede Mantashe, the secretary general of the ANC, who pleaded with us at the Cosatu congress at Gallagher Estate not to play the man, we approached the microphone to tone down our opposition, but before that we registered the fact that individuals leave their imprint on history.

The imprints that we see on the NDP vindicate the fears that Numsa had then. We urge the leadership of Cosatu, the ANC and SACP to prioritise a thorough discussion on the NDP in the forthcoming Alliance Summit, which according to the Nehawu NEC statement, will take place in June.
We welcome the pronouncement by Nehawu that there are issues that they also want to raise about the NDP.

The discussion must pose pertinent questions, some of which we have raised, while others are continually being raised by other sections of the liberation movement.

The discussion must remember that President Jacob Zuma said the following in his political report to Mangaung conference: “When we took a decision on national developing planning, we were very conscious of the fact that, firstly the transition to a national democratic society will face complex challenges which cannot be addressed in an ad hoc fashion or solely left to the forces of the market.”

We must then ask if the majority of proposals in the current NDP do not outsource the responsibility of a developmental state to the markets, which must grow the economy. That is what Gear said in 1996, and hence we have a stubborn triple crisis of unemployment, poverty and inequality with us today.

I want to congratulate the ANC leadership for allowing us space earlier this year to engage on the Eskom application to Nersa. We remind the leadership that even in that forum we followed a dual process of a public campaigning and engaging the leadership – we see no contradiction between our awareness campaigns in our structures and our readiness to engage with the leadership. Even now, we are ready to engage with the leadership.