On behalf of the Central Committee and National Office Bearers I want to applaud and thank metal workers for their resolute, militant, united action in the auto and motor industries.
Auto has been Numsa’s pace setter. We know that capital makes profits during a boom and then makes profits again when the economy is bad, by attacking us with retrenchments. Numsa members in the auto and motor sectors have refused to allow the bosses to make us pay for the crisis of capitalism.
Victory in the Auto sector
Workers have taken collective action in the strike. They have been ready to sacrifice. And above all they have been united. This is what has delivered a double digit increase in the Auto sector, together with some improvements in benefits and conditions. We know that some of our members wanted to continue with the strike action. We also know that some companies threatened to shift production out of South Africa. As we know, capital is vicious and knows no friend or relative.
As a national, united union we assessed the strike, we consulted thoroughly and democratically with our members, and through that process we accepted the offer. Members in only three companies wanted to continue with the strike. The union has a duty to work very closely with those companies so that we understand our members’ frustrations and where possible we ensure that management address their concerns.
You have done very well for your families. But above all you remain a beacon of hope in the face of many challenges confronting the working class. You have kept the banner of metal workers flying high in the country during this round of negotiations and you have given political confidence to many other sectors in the country.
A long, hard struggle for the Motor sector
Immediately after the Auto strike we started a strike in the motor sector. This is where the majority of Numsa members are from. They are the garage workers, panel beaters and workers in the component sector who supply the Auto industry. As I have been writing this editorial I have been in the middle of the negotiations, battling with employers who have demonstrated that they are very hard and stubborn.
The strike has been made more difficult by the employers refusing to budge on the peace clause. They claimed that the economy is fragile and that it is too risky for them to lose the peace clause when they are faced with a militant Numsa. They fear that there will be strikes every day. They say it will damage future investment in the economy.
We said that if we want to keep the peace clause they must deal with the anomalies, in particular in the components sector, in which workers are doing the same job but are paid differently. We called for “equal pay for work of equal value”.
We also said that they must endorse the principle of three months and agree that workers who work for a labour broker must enjoy all benefits and conditions enjoyed by the rest of workers in the industry. At the time I was compiling this report, employers were not ready to agree on these principles of Numsa.
They made an offer of 10%, 8%, 8% for Chapter 3 NDP and 9%, 8%, 8%’for the rest of the chapters, plus 25 cents per year to sort out area differentials. As I write this, Numsa regions are busy consulting members to secure a mandate.
Victory for Garage Workers
We settled the strike for garage workers, having delivered 11.6 % this year, with 9% for year 2 and 9% for year 3. We also won a commitment by the bosses to give 25 cents every year until 2019 to sort out area differentials.
On behalf of the National office bearers collective and the whole union I must say how proud we are of the gallant struggle waged by garage workers and the rest of workers in the motor sector. Despite the fact that you come from small and medium sized companies, you have demonstrated exceptional bravery in taking the bosses head on and challenging the apartheid colonial wage in South Africa.
Lessons from the Motor sector strike
All workers in the industry must join Numsa. We can’t allow the current situation to continue. There is a total workforce of 300,000 and we as Numsa are 70,000. This undermines the power of metal workers in this industry. It makes it harder to defend and build on gains.
All motor workers in all panel bearers, component manufacturers, body builders, garages and car dealers must make sure that we recruit 100% of the workers in the industry to join Numsa.
We, as Numsa leadership, will have to ensure that we overhaul our strategies and tactics, including our bargaining strategy. We must have staff at regional and national level who are equal to the challenge of building a strong, vibrant Numsa that can take employers head on through a strike. Such a strike will be effective because all workers in the motor sector, both black and white, will belong to Numsa by 2016.
We have to learn from our experience and find the best way of bargaining with these two sectors which are linked so closely to one another. For example, when Auto workers who assemble cars go on strike, workers in the component companies become victims of short time, even though they themselves are not on strike. We need much better timing of the strikes in future.
Meeting with the Minister of Labour
In the light of these challenge from the employers, we have organized a meeting with the Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant. We want her to assure us that they will pass labour legislation that will address the challenge of equal pay for work of equal value. We know that they are not listening to our demands to ban labour brokers and we shall continue to campaign for a complete ban.
But we also think that the limit of three months after which workers must enjoy all benefits will go a long way to protect our members who are currently vulnerable in the hands of those human trafficking blood suckers who are labour brokers. The department is committed to act decisively.
Service to our members is the key
We faced another challenge. There are new unions who promise heaven and earth to members. There are members who deliberately blackmail the union by threatening to join a rival union if we fail to do what they want. Numsa as a union remains very resolute and loyal to its members. Our first responsibility is to ensure that our members are happy by taking up their frustrations even before a national strike. Then our members will remain principled and loyal to their union because the union addresses their concerns.
There is no other solution to this challenge except quality service to members. We must also give effective political education to raise the levels of consciousness of our members. They must be able to see the difference between genuine criticism and criticism which is orchestrated and coordinated for another purpose. Our members have the right to make genuine criticisms and we encourage it. We must defend our organization and its leadership from criticism that comes from another agenda.
Numsa defends a revolutionary, independent Cosatu
Our enemies try to divide us
A resolute and a fighting union like Numsa is bound to inspire both friends and enemies. Our enemies know that the best way of fighting us is to create divisions inside Numsa, to divide its leadership. An alternative for them is to try to turn our members against the union, and in particular against its leadership which is championing constitutional decisions of the organization.
They have used cheap propaganda. They have said that Numsa leadership is too busy with politics and forgets about quality service to our members.
This is something we have consistently emphasised to all our nine regions. We must deliver quality service to our members. Shopstewards and organizers must inspire members. We must give workers political confidence. The only way to do this is to attend to all our members’ problems, frustrations and concerns, on time. For us as union leadership this is priority number one.
We are a revolutionary union
However we shall continue to refuse and reject any attempt from any quarter to try and turn Numsa into a gum boots union. Numsa is a revolutionary trade union which links shop-floor struggles with community struggles.
This should not be difficult to understand. Workers are paid in wages a small part of the value which they create with their work. That is what books workers their places in the squatter camps and townships, where there is absolutely no quality infrastructure. That is why we challenge the bosses on the shop-floor.
But we also contest the ideology of the bosses when it finds its way into the state. That is why, for example, Numsa condemned the state massacre of Marikana workers. While others were ducking and diving, Numsa was firm that we must condemn such an action. It was not the act of a democratic government based on the Freedom Charter. The Freedom Charter says that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people.
So we defend Zwelinzima Vavi
It is in this context that the Central Committee of Numsa resolved to defend Zwelinzima Vavi. We know that some forces outside Numsa from within the alliance have been working very hard to isolate the Numsa leadership. This is a leadership that has taken a conscious decision to champion class struggle and pursue a revolutionary, working class agenda in the country.
Comrade Vavi is a leader who has been with Numsa in the trenches to champion this class struggle. He has been produced by you workers as the most fearless and uncompromising leader of the working class, firm about full implementation of the Freedom Charter and maintaining a socialist oriented Cosatu that is both a spear and a shield for workers.
We must remind everybody that in our struggle we must also struggle against those who would like us to lose our memories. It is surprising that there can be anyone within our ranks who can fail to remember that the 11th National Congress took place in 2012 and that Zwelinzima Vavi was elected unopposed, unanimously by workers of this country (Abasebenzi Belilizwe). And yet since then, for the whole of 2013, we have experienced attempts by at least six affiliates to pass a vote of no confidence in his leadership.
They have accused him of working with imperialist forces, of working with the DA and Agang, of having politics that are not Cosatu politics thereby creating a political rupture, and of having benefited from the sale of the Cosatu building despite the fact that everything in that transaction was done transparently.
The agenda behind the attack on Vavi
We soon realised that there was a big agenda behind this attack. These allegations are intended to paralyse Cosatu so that it cannot take up campaigns with the clear demands of workers, in particular the section 77 campaign.
This campaign was endorsed by the 11th National congress from a political report which Comrade Vavi presented. It was very frank and honest about the state of the alliance, which basically exists only for elections. It was very honest about the triple crisis of poverty, unemployment and inequality that comes from the failure of our own ANC government to implement the National Democratic Revolution and in particular the Freedom Charter. Both SACP and ANC leadership objected to the congress endorsing the report, but workers did endorse it and developed a campaign to deal with the conditions of the working class and the poor.
We could see through the sex scandal involving Comrade Vavi as part of the broader agenda to get rid of him. Firstly, the allegation against him was a serious one of rape and yet it was not reported to the police. Then the grievance that was filed against him by the complainant was withdrawn. Yet affiliates and in particular Cosatu NOBs used these as ammunition to further their aims of liquidating him. Numsa Central Committee resolved to take up a fight to defend Zwelinzima Vavi as part of our battle to defend the independence of Cosatu as a federation of worker.
Our revolutionary demands
The crisis in Cosatu and the isolation of Zwelinzima Vavi are being engineered from within the alliance by those who want to maintain the status quo and against those who want radical change. And what are those issues that make Numsa and Vavi the most hated today? Obviously some of these come from Numsa policy positions that were endorsed by Cosatu 11th National congress:
Numsa and Vavi are very firm that the political power of the alliance must be used to take ownership and control of the national wealth of our country. We must implement the Freedom Charter. The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industries must return to the ownership of the people. We must nationalise the key commanding heights of the economy and strategic minerals under workers’ control to champion manufacturing and industrialization and create jobs. That includes companies like Sasol and ArcelorMittal, as well as the Reserve Bank.
Numsa has been clear that we can’t allow the failed macro-economic policy of Gear to continue. We need change. We have been saying No to liberalization of trade and removal of exchange controls because both destroy jobs, rob us of investment in productive sectors of the economy and destroy the potential for job creation.
Numsa called on government to ban labour brokers. We said No to the youth wage subsidy as it would destroy existing quality jobs in the economy. Together with Zwelinzima Vavi we have championed these demands, including our rejection of putting public roads into private hands through e-tolling. It is not surprising that Cosatu couldn’t take up these campaigns. Every CEC of Cosatu has been a battleground to deal with Zwelinzima Vavi. This has allowed an anti-working class agenda to win significant victories. President Zuma has signed the implementation of e-tolls. Pravin Gordhan, through the National Treasury, is steaming ahead with the implementation of the youth wage subsidy.
Numsa and Zwelinzima Vavi rejected the National Development Plan whose mission is to further entrench white monopoly capital’s domination in the South African economy. We have taken a clear position against corruption by our comrades in government, like the millions that have gone to Nkandla Gate and the undermining of our sovereignty by the Guptas landing their flights as they please.
Why Numsa is going to court
Both the convening of the meeting and the actual decision to suspend Comrade Vavi were done wrongly and we were not listened to. It was also interesting that on the eve of the CEC which claims to have suspended him, Comrade Thobile Ntola of Sadtu was himself suspended for having allowed Comrade Vavi to speak in the Eastern Cape at a time when Comrade Vavi was not even suspended. Under the circumstances, Numsa NEC was left with no option but to challenge his unfair suspension in court, something completely unprecedented in the history of the federation. But because we are dealing with a force that is determined to silence Cosatu as an independent working class voice, we had no choice but to approach the court.
Forward to a special congress
Comrade Vavi was elected in a congress. That is why we decided that is the right thing to do, in our tradition of democratic, worker control, is to convene a special congress of Cosatu, even though the leadership of the federation seems to be poised to try to delay it.
Numsa Central Committee also resolved to convene our own special National Congress in December 2013. This will allow the Numsa leadership to seek guidance from you, the members, on what we must do. At the time we took decisions to support the ANC in the next election the situation was different: there was no NDP; we were not aware of the extent of the divisions in the federation; the ANC leadership had not yet engineered the rejection of nationalization despite it having been endorsed by delegates; e-tolls were not signed into law.
Now all these things have happened. In addition, we face a situation in which labour brokers are still not banned and there is no program to fully implement the Freedom Charter. Instead, the NDP is being implemented and will form part of the ANC election manifesto.
Numsa leadership under attack
Numsa, its leadership and in particular its General secretary, have come under severe attack from the leadership of the ANC, in particular the Secretary General Comrade Gwede Mantashe and the SACP General secretary Blade Nzimande. They have been trying to drive a wedge between Numsa leadership and its membership. We had to respond. All forms of propaganda have been mobilised against us. In the dirty report allegedly produced by intelligence people, Zwelinzima Vavi is alleged to be working with imperialist forces. The names of the Numsa GS Irvin Jim and many others have been mentioned. Dirty politics are at play in our country today and within the alliance. Comrade Vavi has publicly said that he is reliably informed that these reports were circulated by Cosatu President Sdumo Dlamini.
As the General secretary of Numsa I am extremely aware that our decision to call for a special congress and our firm political positions have led to some within the ANC and SACP deciding to infiltrate Numsa. They are targeting its leadership at national, regional, local and even plant levels and setting up cells inside and outside Numsa, using activists who used to work in Numsa.
The agenda is to win over Numsa Shopstewards, and some in the leadership of the union, to work to divide us. The ultimate intention is to replace the current national leadership. They single me out as the General Secretary and present me as a problem to members and the alliance. But these very same people, who are champions of this agenda, such as Gwede Mantashe, are not prepared to stop the ANC on e-tolls, youth wage subsidy, NDP or other right-wing neo liberal policies that are destroying manufacturing and leading to serious levels of deindustrialization. Election time is coming. The ANC wants Numsa’s endorsement as a revolutionary organisation. Our special congress must decide whether we will give it to them.
We are at a historic crossroads: the working class must either defend a Socialist NDR or succumb to a neoliberal capitalist NDR now coded in the NDP. Numsa cannot succumb to capitalism. We must soldier on. We shall overcome all the forces of capitalist darkness now working very hard to destroy us. We must remain united and determined to win the good fight for a Socialist Republic of South Africa.
Suspension of Cosatu 2nd vice president
Lastly, as I was finalizing this report, we as Numsa NOBs received a copy of a letter that Port Elizabeth local sent to the region and the company of Comrade Zingiswa Losi, Cosatu 2nd Vice President. The letter states that the local has decided to suspend the comrade as a shopsteward, suggesting that she has brought the organization into disrepute. As NOBs we shall be guided by the region on the problems leading to this suspension so that we are able to brief the federation.