New union fed­er­a­tion may face launch hur­dles

CityPress - - Business - DEWALD VAN RENSBURG dewald.vrens­burg@city­press.co.za

Union of­fi­cials who never earn more than the na­tional av­er­age in­come of a skilled worker and can be re­called at any time by mem­bers.

Free mem­ber­ship for marginalised work­ers and a re­jec­tion of the “one in­dus­try, one union” rule cham­pi­oned by Cosatu.

Th­ese are two of the more prac­ti­cal “pro­posed prin­ci­ples” for the new labour fed­er­a­tion be­ing planned un­der the lead­er­ship of for­mer Cosatu gen­eral sec­re­tary Zwelinz­ima Vavi.

Ac­cord­ing to spokesper­son Pa­trick Craven, cre­at­ing a new fed­er­a­tion could take longer than ex­pected.

A sum­mit in Boks­burg last week­end drew about 29 in­de­pen­dent unions that do not be­long to the three fed­er­a­tions – Cosatu, Fe­dusa and Nactu – to dis­cuss the pos­si­ble launch of a new fed­er­a­tion.

All of them needed to go to mem­bers and come back to the ta­ble with a man­date to join and de­ter­mine the poli­cies of the new or­gan­i­sa­tion, said Craven. “We want it dis­cussed at all lev­els. We can’t take short cuts.”

The Na­tional Congress of Trade Unions (Nactu) also at­tended, tech­ni­cally rep­re­sent­ing about 20 more unions, but says it is a “huge mis­un­der­stand­ing” that it has de­cided to be part of the new fed­er­a­tion.

Nactu gen­eral sec­re­tary Nar­ius Moloto told City Press that they at­tended the sum­mit to sup­port the agenda of re­vi­tal­is­ing union­ism.

The new fed­er­a­tion had “a dif­fer­ent agenda”, he said. “There has been no de­ci­sion to dis­solve Nactu. “That would be un­der­min­ing our­selves.” In­stead, the sum­mit was about ad­dress­ing the “new, in­ter­est­ing chal­lenges” faced by the labour move­ment as the bound­aries be­tween eco­nomic sec­tors dis­solve and small, new unions pro­lif­er­ate.

“The ques­tion is, should we have so many unions ... or get to­gether,” said Moloto.

The an­nounce­ments about a new fed­er­a­tion had con­fused Nactu mem­bers, Moloto added.

“We have met with Vavi to clar­ify. Mem­bers are ask­ing about it.”

A found­ing congress to launch a new fed­er­a­tion will hope­fully oc­cur by early 2017, reads the dec­la­ra­tion is­sued af­ter the week­end’s sum­mit.

In the mean­time, all the at­tend­ing unions are meant to study dis­cus­sion doc­u­ments on pos­si­ble poli­cies and prin­ci­ples.

Most of the core pol­icy po­si­tions are not very dif­fer­ent from those of­fi­cially taken by Cosatu when it comes to ma­jor na­tional pol­icy ques­tions.

On po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions, the pro­posal is that the new fed­er­a­tion sup­ports po­lit­i­cal par­ties on a con­di­tional ba­sis, de­pend­ing on what poli­cies they pro­pose.

This leaves the door open for elec­toral sup­port for the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers, which many com­men­ta­tors as­sumed would be the case.

The need to stop out­sourc­ing and or­gan­ise the masses of un­unionised ca­sual, part-time and in­for­mal work­ers is a re­cur­ring theme.

The Ex­panded Public Works Pro­gramme and Com­mu­nity Health Worker Pro­gramme are also crit­i­cised.

Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in ru­ral ar­eas use it “as a form of cheap per­ma­nent em­ploy­ment” to do the work that is done by mu­nic­i­pal em­ploy­ees in cities, claims one of the doc­u­ments.

Stop­ping the drop­ping rate of union­i­sa­tion is one of the ma­jor de­clared ob­jec­tives of the planned new fed­er­a­tion. While union mem­ber­ship stands at 3.85 mil­lion and still grow­ing ev­ery year, the labour force is grow­ing faster.

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