Embattled Cosatu in talks to repair its torn flanks
THE NEXT few weeks are going to be especially difficult for Cosatu as the federation holds informal talks with its affiliates to prevent it from completely imploding.
Cosatu’s national officebearers were also expected to meet the ANC today as part of a political process announced last week to unify Cosatu, which is rent down the middle over various issues.
The process will not be easy as unions have different views on what needs to happen to unify the federation. Seven of Cosatu’s 18 affiliates have temporarily withdrawn their participation in the federation’s executive structure.
Cosatu hopes that a decision by its president, S’dumo Dlamini, to finally give the go-ahead for a special national congress which has the power to elect new leaders will lure the seven unions back.
They, along with Numsa, called for the special congress more than a year ago, as they believe it is the only way to heal Cosatu.
According to insiders, an option could be to ask Numsa to suspend a resolution adopted last year to extend its scope, and in return it would be allowed back into Cosatu.
But Numsa agreeing to this is unlikely. It believes extending its scope is not in contradiction with Cosatu’s founding principles as alleged by more than half the federation’s affiliates.
The union, which was accused of “poaching” members from sister affiliates, is now organising along value chains, arguing that technological changes, changes in production and restructuring of sectors have necessitated new organisational strategies.
An ANC task team set up several months ago to help unify Cosatu agrees that the way unions organise may need to be adjusted due to changing economic conditions, but if changes are to be made, they should be done at a national congress.
Last week, a National Union of Mineworkers leader said that if Numsa were to return, it would not be satisfied with it only suspending its scope.
It would want the metalworkers to agree to “hand over” members it had organised in mines, which was traditionally NUM’s territory, as well as those it had been accused of poaching from the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union, including at the Ngqura container terminal outside Port Elizabeth.
Numsa’s expulsion is one of many issues dogging the federation.
The political process will also focus on what kind of action, if any, should be taken against Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, who is facing nine charges, including maladministration and bringing the federation into disrepute.
The seven unions who boycotted a Cosatu central executive committee meeting last week are worried that Numsa’s expulsion will lead to similar action against Vavi, as his support base in Cosatu has been diminished.
A leader from one of the seven unions, who did not want to be named, said Vavi had pleaded with them last week to lift their boycott, but they had told him they needed more time to decide how to move forward.
They are to announce their decision later this week.
Vavi pleaded for boycott to be lifted