The Workers Summit and May Day 2016

For the first time in the history of the South African labour movement, 50 unions representing well over a million workers will come together and forge unity of workers across their different organisational traditions and backgrounds, and their political and ideological differences, racial and historic differences.
This follows a call made by the 26 unions in September 2015 that a new unity worker platform should be pursued, based on the following principles:
1. Independence: We believe Unions must be independent from employers (in the private and public sector) and from political parties. This does not mean that unions are apolitical.
2. Worker control and democracy: We believe that Unions must be worker-controlled and practise democracy, accountability, transparency and be tolerant.
3. Non-racialism and Non-sexism: We believe Unions must fight for the maximum unity of all workers and reject all divisive and negative sentiment such as xenophobia etc.
4. Financial self-sufficiency, accountability and opposition, in word and deed, to corruption, fraud and maladministration within its own ranks and in society as a whole.
5. Anti-imperialist and Internationalist: Unions must place a high priority on international solidarity.
6. Socialist orientation: Unions must be ready to engage in the transformation of our societies to counter capitalist exploitation, inequalities and poverty.
7. Militancy in Fighting for the Working Class and the Poor: We believe Unions must be ready to actively campaign for change, and made links with all of the oppressed and marginalised.
8. Effective Organisation and Representation: Unions must organise in the most effective manner to represent workers and serve their interests.
These principles are not cast in stone and will be subjected to more intense debates and discussions after the Workers Summit.
We are pleased to announce that the historic Workers Summit – the very first of its kind, will take place on 30 April 2016 and up to 3000 delegates will attend.
Why a Workers Summit?
1. For many years federations and unions have called for greater levels of unity and cooperation amongst the working class because they believe that the unity of workers is sacrosanct. During this discussion many have raised obstacles to the realisation of this goal. We believe that these obstacles are not insurmountable, especially given the challenges now facing workers, their families and the communities where they live.
2. We believe that unions are a primary mass organ to represent the interests of workers and that they must strive to unite workers irrespective of their political differences. Hundreds of thousands of workers and activists have been dismissed from their unions and their federation for unacceptable reasons. Instead of moving closer to the realization of worker unity, workers are being divided when they most require unity. We believe that unions and federations that dismiss workers from their ranks because of political differences will be unable to unite workers.
3. These developments threaten to weaken an already fragmented worker voice, which employers in both the private and public sectors have not hesitated to take full advantage of.
4. The Department of Labour list at least 184 registered trade union entities, and many more 300 are unregistered or are in the process of being registered, and this hides perhaps the biggest challenge, which a divided trade union movement continually fails to address. The shocking truth is that 76% of workers remain unorganised, and most of them are in the most vulnerable sectors. In addition, 54% of all wages received by workers are determined by the employers without any negotiations. Only 23% of workers’ wages are determined through collective bargaining with only 9% determined through centralized bargaining.
5. The share of wages to the GDP has been falling since 1991. Today the share of wages to the GDP is below 50%. This means firms have been profiting at the expense of the workers.
6. To make matters worse, unemployment, in particular youth unemployment, has reached catastrophic levels. Poverty has climbed to over a disastrous 54% of the population and 14 million of our people go to bed every night without food. Wages have stagnated and 50% of workers now earn below R3 033. Over 60% of workers earned below Stats SA’s poverty line (upper band) of R4966 in 2014. Income inequalities have widened to the point that we are now the most unequal society in the world.
7. As if this is not bad enough, we are currently witnessing a new job loss bloodbath that is threatening to worsen our already disastrous political and economic circumstances.
8. In addition, corruption is diverting billions of Rands away from the delivery of public services to the poor, and into the hands of a greedy parasitic elite, making the already desperate crisis of unemployment, poverty, inequality and collapsing public services even worse.
9. Our young democracy is threatened and is being systematically undermined. Chapter Nine institutions, in particular the Office of the Public Protector, and even now the Judiciary, are under full frontal attack. State Owned Enterprises experience one crisis after another. Unless we take action now, we are in danger of sinking into a kleptocratic and predatory society where the absence of accountability and corruption will be the norm.
10. Corruption has infected our trade union movement and is indeed one of the reasons for the paralysis and divisions in many of our trade union formations today. Standing up against corruption wherever it raises its ugly head must be one of our priorities at this time.
11. Our over-riding priority must be to take up the fight for a strong, pro-active, independent and united workers’ movement. That is why we have resolved to convene a Workers Summit, to which the broadest possible number of representative workers’ federations and unions must participate.
The workers summit aims and objectives as endorsed by the Workers Summit Steering Committee are as follows:
1. To provide an opportunity to make an assessment of the state of the Trade Union Movement and the challenges faced by the working class now and going forward.
2. To identify our common concerns, common principles, and adopt a common approach towards greater working class unity.
3. To consider the possibility of forming a new Trade Union Federation based on an agreement on fundamental principles and a shared orientation.
4. To develop and agree comprehensive proposals to take forward the outcomes of the Workers Summit.
5. To prepare the basis for a declaration to be put to the May Day Rally on 1 May
We have invited FEDUSA, CONSAWU, COSATU and NATU to attend and address the Workers Summit on the principles that will be subjected to discussions by workers in this historic parliament.
May Day
Theme – Uniting Workers for a New Campaigning, Independent Trade Union Federation: Workers And Unemployed Unite! Fight the Jobs Bloodbath
This unity will be further consolidated and taken further in another historic May Day celebration. This will take place in a 20 000-seater Mehlareng Stadium in Tembisa, Gauteng.
We shall use the May Day to launch a Jobs Campaign that will unite workers across all sectors of the economy.
The Workers Summit and the May Day Rally are also breaking from the tradition of a top table speaking down to workers. The labour movement has been saddled with paralysis and elitism for too long. This time, both the programmes are actually based on the needs and active participation of workers and poor communities.
In addition to ensuring that an inclusive programme of worker leaders from a wide range of traditions are heard, both programmes will provide opportunities for ordinary workers and shop stewards, the unemployed, young people and community activists to be heard. They will be encouraged to talk about the challenges we all face, and how best to build worker unity across historic, organisational and political differences.
The Workers Summit and the May Day Rally will not be just talk shops. They will generate a programme of action and herald the launch of a Real Jobs Campaign aimed at mobilising against the jobs blood bath, and providing comprehensive alternatives to unemployment. Every effort will be made to link with the demands of poor communities for service delivery, and with all those campaigning against austerity and corruption. This is another step towards revitalizing a movement that has been passive for too long.
The Aims of Our May Day Rally are:
• To celebrate our diversity and unity on Workers Day
• To provide a report back from the Workers Summit
• To launch the Jobs Campaign and win active support for it
• To provide an opportunity for workers/activists to speak
• To show that we are not paralysed or patronised!
Beyond the Workers Summit we shall continue to work hard to ensure that more unions join this train for workers unity. Already many more unions are in discussions and are approaching us for bilateral discussions with a view of joining us.
The media are invited and welcome to attend both events. The details are:
Workers Summit
Saturday 30 April, 09h30
Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre, Boksburg
May Day rally
Sunday 1 May, 10h00
Mehlareng Stadium, Tembisa
Patrick Craven 061 636 6057