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(Updated Sept. 2) South Africa: COSATU calls `total shutdown', condemns state `scabbing', violence

See also "South Africa: Public sector strike highlights post-apartheid’s contradictions".

* * *

STOP PRESS: COSATU suspends solidarity strike

September 1, 2010 -- In the light of the consultations and negotiations currently taking place around the public sector strike, the Congress of South African Trade Unions has for the moment suspended the secondary strike which was scheduled to begin tomorrow [September 2]. This is to give public servants’ unions sufficient time to consult with their members and then to resume talks with the government.
The federation would however stress that this is only a suspension and our affiliated unions remain ready to take solidarity strike action in support of the public service workers if a resolution to the dispute is not reached.
Patrick Craven, national spokesperson, Congress of South African Trade Unions

* * *

August 26, 2010 -- Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi on August 24 announced that its affiliated unions will launch a solidarity "secondary strike" on September 2 in support of the country's 1.3 million public servants and teachers, who are on strike for better wages and allowances. "All COSATU unions, in both the public and private sectors, will embark on a sympathy strike. No member of COSATU will be at work next week", Vavi warned.

According to the August 25 Johannesburg Times, Vavi told a press conference following a COSATU executive meeting (see statement below) that the African National Congress (ANC) government was being "disingenuous"."We do need a total shutdown until government comes to its senses and accede to the legitimate demands of the working class." He likened ANC cabinet ministers who lived "caviar lifestyles" to "the shepherd feeding himself, forgetting about the lambs".

Public servants are demanding an 8.6% wage increase and a R1000 a month housing allowance. The ANC government is offering 7% and a R700 allowance.

Vavi attacked the government for organising "volunteers" to staff hospitals and schools around the country. "Volunteering for a stipend is scabbing. Scabbing is an international word meant to explain exactly that -- when you come and take jobs off workers who are in a legal strike. Yes, you can work with us in order to ensure that no lives are lost, but please don't cross the picket line", he said.

After more than 100 strikers were arrested on August 23, Vavi urged members of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) and the South Afrcian Policing Union "not to allow the employer to use them to crush the strike". POPCRU accused the national police and Johannesburg Metro Police of "real state brutality" towards its members during protests outside hospitals and schools: "Our contention is that all has been applied in terms of the law, but we continue to see police officers provoking workers at the picket line . hitting, arresting and shooting peaceful marchers."

On August 25, South African Security Forces Union president Bhekinkosi Mvovo said that "workers in uniform ... should not be used in a manner that seeks to undermine the right of workers to strike. The scenes that have been widely reported in the media of policemen failing to use the minimum force to striking women during women’s month are very disturbing. The continual use of soldiers as scab labour in hospitals is not only unsustainable but is parasitic as the very soldiers stand to benefit to a reasonable settlement and demand of the public service workers. The government should be careful of developing a negative relationship between the soldiers and the poor as this might strain any future cooperation between soldiers and workers."

South African Democratic Teachers Union's  Bongani Mconyana told a rally of striking public servants and teachers on August 24 that South Africa's President Jacob Zuma might, like former president Thabo Mbeki, not complete his term as president if he refused to change his attitude to the strike. Mbeki was deposed by Zuma after COSATU and the South African Communist Party members within the ANC campaigned against him.

The South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) confirmed that its 52,000 members in Gauteng province would go on a sympathy strike on August 27. SAMWU spokesperson Tahir Sema said: "There will be a total shutdown of all Gauteng municipal services, including water, customer service, Metro Police and municipal clinics to show support for our colleagues." Sema also warned: "If the government does not resolve the current impasse as soon as possible, as many as 150,000 SAMWU members will be downing tools nationwide." SAMWU's 16,000 members in the Eastern Cape province will also strike on August 30.

Also, on August 26, mass marches in support of the public service strikers were held throughout South Africa.

COSATU in solidarity with public service workers

Statement by the Congress of South African Trade Unions

August 25, 2010 -- The Central Executive Committee of the Congress of South African Trade Unions has declared its total support for the strike by 1.3 million public service workers and demands that the government moves immediately to make a new offer which can lead to a rapid conclusion to the strike.

COSATU warns that it will not allow a defeat of the public sector workers. We know the full political and economic implications if the public sector workers lose this battle. In order to ensure that the strike does not fail COSATU makes the following calls:

1.   On all public sector workers to intensify the strike. We need a total shut down of the public sector until the government comes to its senses and accedes to the legitimate demands of the working class.

2.   All COSATU affiliated unions will embark on solidarity action in support of the demands of the public sector workers. In this regard, every COSATU union shall on the 26 August submit notices to their respective employers that will allow them legal right to embark secondary strike. Our members and their communities (working class) are the ones on the receiving end of the current situation. It is workers’ kids who have not been at school since the beginning of the strike; it is the workers and their families that rely on the functioning public hospitals. The rich, which includes the elite in society, are hardly affected by the strike. Their kids are in private schools where teachers are better paid. They go to private hospitals to access healthcare. We warn that the strike will also be protected and take as long as necessary until the government as the employer accede to the legitimate demands of the workers.

3.   COSATU calls on all members of POPCRU and SAPU and all police and other law enforcement officials not to allow the employer to use them to crush the strike. We certainly are not making a call on them to allow lawlessness. Our call on them is that they exercise maximum caution and avoid unnecessary conflict with workers whose only sin is to exercise their right to picket and demonstrate in support of their demands.

4.   We call on civil society to support the strike and not to cross the picket lines. Volunteering is equal to scabbing and scabbing does deepen frustrations and anger amongst workers. This is what normally creates violence between workers on strike and those seen by workers to be taking their jobs and undermining their legitimate demands. 

The federation regrets the hardship which the strike has caused but insists that the responsibility for this must be firmly placed at the door of the government, which could have prevented the strike in the first place, and could still now end the strike, by coming forward with a serious new proposal. Secondly government has refused to sign an agreement on minimum service level agreements for the past 16 years. This would have allowed clarity with an agreed number of workers to continue providing a service in case of essential services. Government has for all these years refused to sign so that it can unilaterally declare most of the public sector workers as essential services whilst declaring that there is no support for strike action by its employees. We call on the government even at this late hour to sign an agreement with the public sector workers so that there is skeleton staff in areas where workers provide an essential service.

The federation also reiterates its strong insistence that strike must be conducted in a peaceful, lawful and orderly manner and condemns any acts of violence and intimidation by anyone involved in the strike, including its own members. We also disassociate ourselves from the irresponsible utterances by some of our leaders that have only served to alienate us from the public. Our demands are legitimate and enjoy overwhelming support from the public.

Union pickets have been mainly very peaceful, but striking workers exercising their legal rights have come under attack from the police with intimidation, rubber bullets and arrests. What makes us even more angry is that during the FIFA World Cup police were trained in civilised ways of crowd control. Once their more important visitors left, they have now revert back to the old apartheid-style skiet and donder with trigger happy police shooting at workers at their backs. This we will take up with the leadership of government at the highest level.

We submitted a letter to the Minister of PSA on 12 August in line with the Labour Relations Act authorising legal pickets by members and supporters. We are entitled to establish the legal pickets in public places outside workplaces. The police have no right to disperse pickets outside workplaces.

The unions are deeply disturbed by the outright lies that government has told the people of South Africa that there is an 8.5% wage increase offer that has been presented to the unions. No offer was tabled at the PSCBC, a democratic institution set up for negotiations. Government has now decided to negotiate with the media instead of trade unions admitted to the council. The unions latest statement issued by government stating that in “real terms” government is offering public service unions an 8,5% increase, is pure misinformation aimed at causing confusion.

The Government has added the Pay Progression – an old and hard fought gain by the Unions -- on to the 7% salary increase offer to claim this 8.5% increase. The government must explain to the public and workers that, the general salary increase for 2010/2011 is only 7% as contained in the draft agreement. Labour is demanding a general salary increase of 8.6%. 

The pay progression which is 1% for teachers and 1, 5% for other public service employees, has been in place since the signing of Collective Agreement No 8 of 2003. It is also not automatic as workers first have to undergo performance evaluation before they are awarded the increase. 

Government calculates pay progression as a wage increase knowing full well that not everyone qualifies and benefits from it and it is a flawed system that is open to abuse by the supervisors. This system is a performance-based system which was first unilaterally implemented during the 2001/2002 financial year by the government as employer. This performance based system is part of the existing conditions of service, which was not part of the 2010 negotiations and had never been part of any negotiation recently.

The system gives rise to extreme unhappiness amongst public service workers and annually when evaluations are completed government is flooded with grievances by disgruntled public service workers. This unilateral system is not an objective tool and bonuses are allocated on favouritism, nepotism and blatant unfairness. Further, it is not possible for everyone to qualify as a limited budget is made available and the DPSA policy also limits the different categories of bonus allocations.

We would like to state categorically that the government’s offer at the Bargaining Council is a 7% general salary increase, R 700 housing allowance and 1 July as the implementation date.  

We urge the employer to refrain from confusing the public through this misinformation. This wage impasse will not be solved by misinformation but by the parties concerned working together in good faith.

We also demand that SABC News apologise for broadcasting inaccurate news to the public. The public broadcaster must, at all material times, provide the public with accurate information and not allow itself to be used by government to spin. Government’s unashamed lies show the contempt which this government has for the citizens of this country and the crisis of leadership we have as a country if our own government lies to the public without a sense of shame.

We have noticed that despite government pleading poverty it has enough money to buy full page adverts to peddle its lies and also has money to transfer patience to the private hospitals. With the private health receiving 2/3 of all money spent on health to provide services to 15% of the population, private hospitals are helping government to derive big profits. Special courts were set up for the World Cup but now they are being used to punish striking workers when they should be established permanently to fight crime that is affecting everyone.

These are workers who are employed to serve the public and they are ready and willing to perform their duties as long as government gives them what they deserve which is an 8.6% wage increase and a R1000 monthly housing allowance. A government with serious socio-economic challenges will think twice before spending millions of rands buying tickets on a month-long soccer tournament and buy acres of space in the media to peddle lies and mislead the public.

The government ministers who deny workers their meagre wage increase have spent millions of rands on luxury vehicles and are living caviar lifestyles at the expense of the poor majority that is dependent on government services. This is a case of the shepherd feeding himself forgetting about the lambs.

We call on government to respect the democratic institutions and present a new offer, if there is one at the PSCBC, not tell lies in the media. The ministers are wasting time playing games because they are not suffering and their children are not forced to use public hospitals and schools. The entire government continues to fail the poor South Africans by failing to provide the necessary leadership to resolve the impasse.

Finally COSATU repeats its demand that the government is responsible to end the strike by bringing a new offer to the table.

All workers to the front: Ours is a struggle for service delivery

Our members and working-class communities are the ones on the receiving end of the current situation. It is our kids that have not been to school since the beginning of the strike, it is the workers and their families who are affected by the non-functioning public hospitals. The elite in our society are hardly affected by the strike.

Public sector workers call on civil society and communities to support the strike and not to cross the picket lines. Volunteers are equal to scabbing and scabbing does deepen frustrations and anger amongst ourselves as it undermines our legitimate demands. On 26 August 2010, tomorrow we will take our struggle to a higher level embarking on decentralised mass marches throughout the provinces and regions.

We have no other weapon but the withdrawal of our labour

 

 

Comments

Gauteng SACP in support of the Public Service strike

Gauteng SACP Press Statement, 25 August 2010

The SACP in Gauteng is fully behind the public service strike and is convinced that the demands of the workers are legitimate. We have thus far taken it upon ourselves to mobilize the rest of civil society and our communities to understand and support this action.

We have however been taken aback by the intransigence of the employer by misleading the public, insinuating that there is a new offer on the table. Such actions only harden attitudes and militate against rules of engagement as provided for in collective bargaining processes. We call upon the employer to desist from such amateurish tendencies and return to the bargaining table with a better offer as soon as possible, for a speedy resolution of this strike.

We are equally dismayed by the brutal and repressive measures employed by the police in dealing with the striking workers. We have noted with concern that Gauteng law enforcement agencies are the most brutal compared to the rest of the provinces during this period. We condemn such brutality as it only plunges the country into chaos. We therefore call upon authorities, in particular the MEC for Safety in Gauteng to make a decisive intervention to restrain the police.

In the same breath, we condemn in all strongest sense any acts of violence and intimidation attributed to the striking workers as it undermines the legitimacy of our action. We call for maximum discipline amongst the workers. We finally call upon the employer to meet the demands of the workers and that can only be achieved at the negotiating table not through the media platform.

Issued by the SACP Gauteng Province

Contact – Provincial Secretary: Jacob Mamabolo (082 884 1868)

Provincial Spokesperson: Pat Ntsobi (072 671 4258)

On the COSATU-led Public Sector Strike

SACP North West Province Statement, 25 August 2010

The South African Communist Party (SACP) North West province calls on all our democratic movement to support COSATU on its call for a total general strike in the country following the unnecessary intransigence demonstrated by our government on this matter.

It is by now very clear that our government is determined not to move progressively in dealing with the public sector strike, which in reality means the testing of the class balance of forces in the country – and therefore requires the vanguard of the working class and the poor to show how strong is the main motive of forces of the revolution, the working and the poor.

In our understanding the current strike is not just about salaries and housing allowances it is more about the country and our strategic objectives of bettering the lives of all our people.

When nurses and doctors are on strike the working class and the poor are unable to receive their basic need of health services, when teachers go on strike it is the sons and daughters of the working class and the poor who are negatively affected by the strike, if the police and the army go on strike it is the poor and the working class who are faced with unsafe conditions subjected to criminals and crime, therefore it is on these basis that as the SACP in the North West province we call on all our people to support the public sector workers ,not only on sentimental basis of solidarity, but equally to ensure that the government meet the workers demands without playing a propaganda game of fabricating stories it call facts in the media.

The government is clear on one important issue that the media can be used for one issue or another – as long as it will dominate the public opinion on and about the strike. Perhaps in response the COSATU public sector unions should equally use all the progressive media to ensure that they clarify their stance on the strike and ensure that the public understands the reasons for a strike, contrary to cheap government propaganda machinery.

Besides, we know that the government in this context it is in an illegitimate alliance with the capitalist sector of the fourth estate – and therefore their adverts are cheap and lousy in our view.

Many will be very concern as to the reasons stated by government in its attempt to intimidate workers through the courts – this is very ironic in essence, because clearly the government is intimidating workers – it means it is not willing to meet the workers demands and in so doing it uses all it has to ensure that it does not meet the demands.

We are all of a sudden, told about the economy and service delivery, though we know that better salaries for workers have nothing to do with service delivery, instead tenderpreneurs are the ones who are negatively blocking and negatively affecting service delivery due to their stealing of public money through their corrupt manners of getting tenders.

As the SACP in the North West province we further call on COSATU and its public sector unions to integrate in its struggle the question of corruption – for us some in government and other forces are opposed to the public sector strike mainly because in their imagination and corrupt intentions of financial gains, they will be affected if the government is to meet the demands of the public sector workers.

CONTACT:
Kaizer Mohau
SACP NW provincial Spokesperson
Tel/fax: 018 462 5675
Mobile: 072 080 2824/0727315818

Or
Madoda Sambatha
SACP NW provincial Secretary
Mobile: 082 800 5336 --

Treatment Action Campaign: support decent salaries & conditions

TAC Electronic Newsletter

25 August 2010
TAC and SECTION 27 Statement
A Week into the Public Sector Strike: We Demand Political Leadership and Engagement from the Highest Level of Government - Meet Union Demands for Decent Salaries and Conditions!

A week into the public sector strike the Treatment Action Campaign and SECTION27 regret that no agreement has been reached between striking public service workers and the government. We support the demands of workers and their right to strike. But we regret the growing polarisation, pain and loss of life. This is now a political crisis that requires political leadership and a solution.

In this statement we set out what we believe should guide government and the unions in finding a solution.

The right to health care depends on properly paid health workers!

Section 27 of the Constitution sets out the right of everyone to have access to health care services. It creates a legal duty that binds the government to progressively realise the right of access to health care services within its ‘available resources’. A key component of the delivery of health care services is an efficient, properly staffed and motivated public service. Employees working in conditions where they are underpaid and forced to endure undignified conditions of service cannot meet this standard.

We do not understand why some of our society’s most essential workers are the lowest paid.

We do understand the anger of workers at the growing inequality in our country fed by the conspicuous consumption of those who occupy high governmental office.

Playing brinkmanship with the unions and attempting to defeat the strike is wrong. If government does defeat the strike it will not have won. Essential workers will return to work further alienated, demoralised, demotivated and angry. Delivery of health care services will suffer.

Reach a Minimum Service Level Agreement with Unions

We understand the worker’s anger and frustration. But TAC and SECTION27 are concerned that striking workers have engaged in intimidation and violence against non-striking workers and endangered the lives of patients. It is vital that the workers hold the moral high ground in this strike. It is vital that the union members act constitutionally – even when government is not.

We commend the spirit of ubuntu and volunteerism that has motivated many people to volunteer in public hospitals to attempt to fill the gap in service delivery in the past week. But we note that this has been made necessary only because government has failed to negotiate minimum service level agreements with public sector workers.

We are worried about the consequences for health of the lack of delivery resulting from the absence of health workers. We appeal to COSATU and all unions to immediately announce that they will support efforts to ensure that people requiring chronic medicines, including ARVs and TB drugs, are able to receive these medicines.

As we have said before, it is vital that minimum service level agreements are finalised with unions so that public sector workers can exercise their constitutional right to strike whilst at the same time preventing avoidable loss of life.

Political Leadership after the Strike

We believe that the actions of Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, in volunteering himself to provide health services are motivated by a genuine desire to save lives. However, when the strike is over his visible leadership and determination must carry through to the urgent measures that are needed to stabilise our health system, including:

• Re-deploying bureaucrats from over staffed offices of the national and provincial health departments into health care facilities.

• Holding hospital CEOs strictly to account for performance.

• Identifying and punishing the rank corruption in the health system.

• Urgently finalising a rural health strategy.

• Urgently finalising a reasonable human resource for health plan and negotiating within Cabinet to ensure that there are sufficient resources available to implement it.

Ensuring Available Resources for Health

The government continues to claim that the demands of workers are unaffordable. But it has failed to supply evidence. They have not offered a thorough analysis of the fiscal situation to substantiate their claim. The Constitution demands more of them.

The National Treasury’s disengagement is also to be regretted. We call on the Treasury to provide an account of the available resources for the public service as well as a plan to indicate how public servants will be properly paid in years ahead.

Without a properly funded plan for health and education we will not achieve the rights promised by our Constitution.

This statement is also endorsed by the Rural Health Advocacy Project

For further comment contact:

Nonkosi Khumalo: TAC Chairperson 074 1945 911
Vuyiseka Dubula: TAC General Secretary 082 7633 005

ENDS

Support and expand the public workers' strike

Keep Left (Cape Town branch) Statement in full solidarity with the public workers strike!
August 26, 2010

Support and expand the public workers' strike

In its front page of Tuesday 24 August the Cape Argus disgracefully claimed that less than one-tenth of a percent of public sector workers were holding the strike in Western Cape. Yet barely 24 hours later thousands more workers came out on strike. The Times of 11 August correctly labels the dispute as A War Between South Africa’s Classes.

We are told that there is no money for wage increases. Yet cabinet ministers spend millions on BMWs and Audis while living in Five-Star luxury hotels. Daily working class patients die from lack of medicines and a shortage of medical personnel in state and council clinics and hospitals but these same councils and government spent R33 billion on world cup stadia.

South Africa’s wealth is still held hostage by a tiny minority of very rich people. Many of those who got rich did so during apartheid. Some got rich after the end of apartheid. This group of filthy bastards grab most of South Africa’s wealth then leave us to fight over the scraps whilst wrongly blaming our neighbours for the poverty.

This minority group also wants to criminalise the right to strike. This is bullshit!! As workers we made heroic sacrifices during apartheid that saw us winning the right to strike. Now they want to take it away.

We must build a powerful movement to impose our will – the will of the vast majority regardless of party political affiliation or union membership. The time for dividing ourselves over our own class strength is over. This is the time for practical solidarity across all the struggles of our class. Workers, unemployed, service delivery protesters, sub-contracted and permanent workers, locals and migrants are all impoverished by capitalism. When we resist we all meet the rubber bullets and water cannon that defend the rich investors and their allies.

Mobilise for COSATU’s call for a complete general strike in solidarity with Public sector workers! Pay the workers! Deliver the services! Jobs for the unemployed! Ban labour brokers! Fight to keep police, wardens and soldiers unionised! To advance our struggle laws and court orders will have to be broken just as under apartheid!

AMANDLA! P.O. Box 356, Newlands 7725, Cape Town - Phone: 074 148 4948 - Email: keepleftct@gmail.com

Strike news, August 27, 2010 -- Alliance fracturing?

Vavi gives government an ultimatum

Mfundekelwa Mkhulisi and Vusi Xaba, Sowetan, 27 August 2010
COSATU general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has warned that the wheels of the economy will stop grinding if the government does not respond to the demands of the striking public service workers within seven days.

Vavi was addressing thousands of Cosatu and independent unions members who marched through the Johannesburg city centre in support of a proposed secondary strike for public servants.

He said all Cosatu affiliates would serve employers with a seven days notice to go on strike in sympathy with public service workers.

Vavi said: "We will be issuing notices today to join public servants in their strike. According to the Labour Relations Act unions must submit a notice to the employer within seven days.

"In seven days the wheels in mining that turn and bring gold and diamonds to the surface will stop grinding."

He said the largest unions in the country - the National Union of Mineworkers and National Union of Metalworkers of SA - were already mobilising for the strike.

He assured the workers that the federation was behind them all the way.

"Cosatu will not allow the defeat of public workers this year. We will not allow you to go back to work without victory in your hands. If we do, everyone else will take advantage of you. Bosses and politicians will say whatever they want about you," he said.

Marchers handed memorandums to the Gauteng departments of education, social development, community safety and Premier Nomvula Mokonyane's office.

Public servants went on strike last Wednesday after a breakdown in negotiations over salaries, housing allowances and equalisation of medical aid.

Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union spokesperson Matsimela Matsimela threatened that there would be a total shutdown in their sector if the government did not respond to their demands within 24 hours.

He said police stations, prisons and traffic departments would not be attended to.

"We demand that the police should not be used as instruments to agitate and infuriate workers," he said.

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA's demands included the reopening of nursing colleges, an increase in the intake of student nurses and the finalisation and implementation of OSD.

Mokonyane promised the workers she would forward their demands to the relevant people.

________________________________________________

Mineworkers to join strike from next Thursday

Business Report, 27 August 2010

South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers will ensure that all its workers in mining, construction and energy join a strike next Thursday in solidarity with striking public sector workers, it said on Friday.

"The NUM fully supports the public sector strike and would next week Thursday ensure that every mining operation, every construction site and every energy worker joins the public sector strike in different forms," NUM, the country's biggest union said in a statement. - Reuters
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Simmering political row
Prakash Naidoo, FM, 27 August 2010

As government and unions ratchet up the rhetoric over the public service strike, there is growing concern that ructions within the tripartite alliance could be prolonging the wage negotiations.

Relations between government and Cosatu have been deteriorating since the Zuma administration took office 15 months ago, but the strike has also revealed tensions between Cosatu and the SA Communist Party (SACP), the third alliance partner.

Union leaders have independently confirmed that problems within the alliance have affected the negotiations. One says the process “has been completely tainted” by the squabbles.

“The difference between this strike and [the last public service one in] 2007 is that this one is really more a fight between the ANC and Cosatu,” says a union leader. “It has made it really difficult for those of us who are not part of this fight.”

Another unionist says government intransigence has frustrated the talks and “left a lot of people, especially workers, very angry”.

About 1m public servants embarked on industrial action last week after months of negotiations, which stalled over union demands for an 8,6% wage increase and a R1000 housing allowance.

Workers have rejected government’s offer of a 7% increase and a R700 monthly housing allowance, and the strike has crippled schools, clinics and government offices.

Last weekend, P resident Jacob Zuma said the disruption of essential services was “foreign” to the culture of the ANC and the alliance.

The communists have been traditional allies of workers, but this week union leaders rounded on the SACP for showing little support for the strike.

SACP spokesman Malesela Maleka retorted by urging Cosatu to forge unity in the alliance instead of “flinging irritable insults”.

Almost the entire SACP leadership holds senior positions in the cabinet and the ANC. SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande is higher education minister and his deputy, Jeremy Cronin, is deputy transport minister. SACP chairman Gwede Mantashe has been ANC secretary-general since December 2007.

Cosatu, especially its general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, has criticised the excesses of cabinet ministers, accusing some of corruption.

The public service strike has revealed the deep fissures within the alliance. A source close to the union leadership says the personal, political and financial scandals that have touched Zuma and his allies, coupled with the excessive World Cup spending and reports that empowerment deals have handsomely rewarded Zuma’s son, nephew and friends, has hardened Cosatu’s resolve.

This has left little room for government to make a moral argument against the wage demands.

Emerging from a severe recession and with the budget deficit running at about 6,7% of GDP, the ANC is buckling under the pressure of assuaging its long-time union allies while trying to make good on election promises of improved delivery.

This week it emerged that government is trying to find an additional R5bn, which economists say will bridge the gap between its offer and the workers’ demands.

Wages account for almost a third of government spending and economists warn that if state borrowing rises, ratings agencies could be spooked, making it more costly to issue new debt.

“The phenomenon with industrial strike action is that its economic cost is not quantifiable until it is too late,” says Brait economist Colen Garrow. “In the current environment, where household budgets are stressed, and double-digit pay increases above the inflation target have almost become the norm rather than the exception, hard questions need to be asked.”

Workers at parastatals have negotiated wage increases of more than 8% in recent months, roughly double the inflation rate.

This and research which shows that the lowest-paid public servants earn 40% less than the average worker may have emboldened public-sector unions to seek increases of 8,6%.

But statistics also show that 21% of formal-sector, non farm payrolls are taken up by the public sector, yet 28% of salaries are paid to them.

With so many above-inflation wage agreements in recent months, economists are concerned it will result in “wage inflation” and leave the Reserve Bank’s monetary policy committee (MPC) with little room to manoeuvre.

“As supportive as the economic evidence generally is of further monetary easing, will an inflation-sensitive MPC remain conservative and withhold cutting its rate again, at a time when consumption expenditure remains fragile and uncertain?” asks Garrow. “Its track record suggests it may when it meets again, in September.”

Garrow and Econometrix treasury management MD George Glynos also worry about “other intangibles” such as the sustainability of investment confidence, which was high after the soccer World Cup.

Glynos says the strikes, and capitulating to union demands, could affect SA’s global competitiveness.

“We have a labour movement that almost feels entitled to make these kinds of wage demands,” he says.

Glynos says government should demand that the wage deal be linked to productivity and competence — especially as a higher wage bill could result in fewer workers in the public service.

But Jasson Urbach, an economist with the Free Market Foundation, says unions often ignore the fact that worker productivity is the main determinant of what employers are willing to pay, and a legislated increase in the price of labour does not increase worker productivity.

Urbach has calculated that between 1990 and 2000 labour productivity in SA increased by 3,3%/year, and real remuneration grew by 1,9%.

In contrast, between 2001 and 2010, labour productivity fell by 2%/year, while real remuneration increased by nearly 3%.

Real remuneration is now increasing at a rate of 13,8 percentage points above the level that can be justified by inflation and labour productivity growth.

“Clearly, this demonstrates that over the past decade unions have enjoyed an inordinate amount of power,” says Urbach. “When they wanted an increase, they got it.”
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Strike tearing alliance apart

MANDY ROSSOUW, MATUMA LETSOALO & MMANALEDI MATABOGE, M&G, 27 August 2010

The two-week strike by hundreds of thousands of state employees marks the lowest point in relations between the ANC and its alliance partner Cosatu since President Jacob Zuma took leadership of the ruling party, with Cosatu making the unprecedented threat that it will refuse to support some ANC candidates in next year's municipal elections.

"The alliance is again dysfunctional. The centre cannot hold," Zwelinzima Vavi, the Cosatu general secretary, said on Thursday. "It is unable to convene a summit for fear of an implosion as a result of fundamental differences on the question of where power lies."

He said that for the first time Cosatu would be selective about the candidates it would campaign for in next year's local elections.

"We will refuse to campaign or support candidates known to be thieves or lazy just because they succeed in manipulating the ANC internal processes," he said.

And in a clear threat to repeat the "Polokwane revolution", the president of Cosatu's education union, Sadtu, Thobile Ntola, hinted that if tensions in the alliance were not resolved, it could lead to another leadership change.

"Growing tensions within the alliance are prompted by the continuing contradictions by alliance leaders on policy issues," said Ntola. "The key differences centre on issues of policy. When we changed the leadership in Polokwane, we expected it to change policy. If they are not going to change policy, they must also be changed."

Some politicians believe that certain Cosatu leaders are wanting to land ANC leadership positions and believe the strike will boost their support among ordinary ANC members.

As thousands of striking workers took to the streets in countrywide marches on Thursday, the strike looked set to escalate. Vavi has warned that the government's continued failure to meet public servants' pay demands will spark secondary strikes next week that will bring the economy to a standstill.

Sympathy strike
Cosatu's municipal union intends staging a sympathy strike on Friday, and other Cosatu unions are understood to have approached their employers over plans for similar action on Thursday.

On Thursday the Labour Court dismissed an interim interdict stopping prison warders and police officers from striking, opening the way for industrial action in the security sector.

This week hurried meetings were convened between ANC and Cosatu leaders aimed at ending the strike, but without success. At least two meetings took place on Monday and Tuesday this week, without any progress being made.

Cosatu admitted it had met ANC leaders but refused to divulge details of the meetings. Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, a former mine unionist, is said to have met Cosatu leaders earlier this month in a bid to head off the strike.

At a press conference in Johannesburg on Thursday, Vavi said behind-the-scenes talks with ANC leaders had pushed the government to raise its offer from 5.2% to 7%. "We told them: 'Let's not have a strike this year," he said.

Some of Cosatu's deployees to the government, including MPs and other government leaders, are being roped in to help mediate between the government and labour.

Former Sadtu leader Thulas Nxesi, now an ANC MP, called on Thursday for the government's budget process to be aligned with pay negotiations to make the annual state wage round easier.

"But all we can do is advise the two parties," he said.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, a former unionist and a key representative of the alliance left, strenuously denied that the ANC had intervened in the strike, which was a matter between the government and the unions.

Damaging alliance relations
To break the deadlock, he called on both sides to place a final settlement offer on the table, which they could accept or reject and revert to their previous positions. He warned that strikes should not be "managed with anger". But he made it clear that the ANC was not impressed by striking teachers and nurses. "It is incorrect to disrupt processes of learning," Mantashe said, adding that if union leaders continued making inflammatory statements, it would seriously damage alliance relations.

He warned that an indefinite strike could hurt Cosatu. "The British National Union of Mineworkers had a year-long strike in 1984. That was the start of the end of that union," he said.

Jeremy Cronin, the deputy transport minister and South African Communist Party deputy general secretary, said that, although the strike was motivated by legitimate demands, there were signs that the ANC's elective conference, due in 2012, was also having an influence.

He also expressed concern about the effect the strike was having on alliance relations.

"No doubt the strike is having a strain on the alliance," he said. "The private sector is now sitting back looking at Cosatu hitting at government. The whole thing makes government appear bad."

One provincial union leader said that a driving force for workers in continuing with the strike had been the "easily reached" settlements of 8% in parastatals.

"It's not such a big deal because they service the business sector, while here the public is the main client. So the government doesn't care that much," the unionist said.

Despite his threats to bring the economy to a standstill, Vavi said the unions had given "the people we are talking to some space to talk to their colleagues in government". He was hopeful that a settlement could be reached. He said that the leadership of Cosatu was willing to settle but that its members were "so angry" that they had told the leadership to reject the offer.

"We cannot say we are good leaders and therefore side with government. We must do what our members say."

The power of labour
One senior union leader said the strike had starkly highlighted the power of labour. Essential service workers felt secure in ignoring court orders to return to work and Cosatu was planning a wave of sympathy stoppages that would paralyse the economy. "We are meeting with the ANC but things are not moving. They can see our power and that is why they are not closing the door," the union leader said.
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Cosatu and the ANC have long differed over the centre of power in the alliance, with the union federation arguing that it is the alliance itself, not the ruling party. The implication is that all important strategic decisions, particularly those on economic policy, must be made jointly by the allies.

Vavi said that since the ANC's 2007 Polokwane conference progress on the economic front had been disappointing. "There was a honeymoon period post-Polokwane, particularly in the alliance, but a range of problematic agendas, particularly on economic policy, has countered the gains."
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Over 250 arrested during strike period so far
Alex Eliseev, Eyewitness News, 27 August 2010

National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele said on Thursday over 250 people have been arrested during the public servants strike.

Cele flew over Johannesburg to check in on the march on Thursday and said he saluted officers who made sure it ran without incident.

The police also secured an interim court order which stopped any employee from joining the strike.

Cele said the court battle against union Popcru will continue next week but he was happy that as of Thursday not a single officer abandoned their duties.

“As South African police we need to understand very well that we are an essential service and we cannot deviate from the law of the land,” he said.

Cele said no matter how long the strike lasts, police will be there.

“As the strike continues, we will continue to police the strike,” he added.

He also revealed that 264 people have been arrested to date during the protests.
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Police face dismissal if they strike

IOL, 27 August 2010

An interim interdict that prohibits all members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) from embarking on a strike was granted by the Labour Court in the early hours of Thursday morning, a national police spokesperson said.

The interdict further prohibits the police and Prisons Civil Rights Organisation (Popcru) from promoting, encouraging or supporting participation in a strike by all members of the SAPS, Brigadier Sally de Beer said.

She said employees of the SAPS render essential services to the community and as a result they were prohibited from striking in terms of Section 65(1)(d) of the Labour Act, 1995.

"Employees of the SAPS, both those employed under the South African Police Service Act and those employed under the Public Service Act, may not - in terms of the SAPS Act and in terms of this interim interdict - withhold their labour or participate in strike action." "Any contravention of this prohibition will lead to disciplinary action being taken, which may include summary dismissal from the police service, de Beer said.

SAPS management approached the court after Popcru announced on Wednesday that about 145 000 police and traffic officers, together with prison warders, will be joining the ongoing national public service strike on Saturday.

The strike has seen hospital services, schools, courts and other public services disrupted for over a week as workers demand an 8.6-percent salary increase and a R1 000 monthly housing allowance.

The workers have rejected government's offer of seven percent and a R700 allowance. - Sapa
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NUM: “An injury to one is an injury to all”

NUM Media Release, 27 August 2010

“An injury to one is an injury to all”

Mineworkers are ready to take the bull by the horns and we shall not surrender

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is shocked by the manner in which the state decided to deal with the public sector strike. The NUM is shocked that the state has led society down by letting our children loiter on the streets and become street children, that the state has let patients become hobos.

The NUM fully supports the public sector strike and would next week Thursday ensure that every mining operation, every construction site and every energy worker joins the public sector strike in different forms.

We are angry that whilst those who are privileged have children go to school overseas; our children have turned into street kids. NUM members are angry that when their family members are sick, they have nowhere to take them.

Mineworkers are angry that when their servants, the public sector workers ask for a mere pittance, they are met with resistance and threatened with dismissals by those in power. Our members are angry that when their counterparts ask for a thousand rand housing allowance, they are met with resistance.

The NUM appeals to the state to stop with immediate effect its attitude and deliver to the public sector workers who are hungry for food and decent houses.

The NUM is further worried that when we are all more concerned about the welfare and impact of the strike on the ailing citizenry and children, others are concerned on the effect of the strike on the elections.

We call on all our members to listen to the call from their branch leadership and be ready for action.

The NUM further calls on the ministers not to abuse state funds through useless electronic and print media propaganda.

We call on all workers to show maximum discipline in all our demonstrations and refuse to be provoked.

Frans Baleni, NUM General Secretary, 082 375 6443

Lesiba Seshoka, Spokesman, 082 803 6719

COSATU's Vavi questions ANC Alliance's value

Warning of 'predator state'
Cosatu will not give its support to ANC 'political hyenas'
By CHARLES MOLELE, The Times, 27 August 2010

An angry Cosatu has warned that it will no longer give "a blank cheque" to the ANC in elections, and that no "corrupt and lazy" ruling-party candidate will get its blessing in next year's local-government polls.

In the latest indication that the trade union federation is fed up with being treated as a junior partner in the ANC-led tripartite alliance, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi told journalists that there was growing "despondency" in the federation about President Jacob Zuma's government.

He said that, though Cosatu would back the ANC at next year's polls, not all of the ruling party's candidates would get its support.

"We will support the ANC to win the local-government elections next year, but we can't support people we definitely know are corrupt and unfit to be leaders," said Vavi.

"We want people of absolute integrity who are trusted by their communities. If we can't get our way, why must we legitimise their campaign and give them a blank cheque?"

With a membership of close to 2million, and a strong organisation across the country, Cosatu is an important element in the ANC election machine.

But a stinging statement issued by the federation's central executive committee yesterday made it clear that Cosatu's leaders - vocal in campaigning for the Zuma presidency - are now unhappy with the way the alliance works.

Relations between Cosatu and the ANC are at their lowest ebb since the ANC's Polokwane national conference. The federation is blaming the ANC for marginalising its allies and for forcing "a return" to the Thabo Mbeki era.

"The one common feature with that period [the Mbeki era] is that the alliance is again dysfunctional. The centre cannot hold," Vavi said.

He said there was "anger, disappointment and despair" with Zuma's administration among workers, and the problems of the alliance were being worsened by corruption and by individuals who used the government for personal gain.

Vavi said the Cosatu' s central executive committee believed that if the federation did not act decisively "we are heading rapidly in the direction of a full-blown predator state in which a powerful, corrupt and demagogic elite of political hyenas increasingly controls the state as a vehicle for accumulation".

He said Cosatu would appeal to civil society to establish a "corruption watch" to expose graft.

He urged that legal action be taken to reverse "the outrageous Arcelor Mittal deal" involving Zuma's son, Duduzane, and the Gupta brothers.
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Zuma's former allies are now his biggest critics
By The Editor, The Times Newspaper, 27 August 2010

The Times Editorial: How things have changed in alliance politics since President Jacob Zuma was swept to victory in Polokwane three years ago - washed up in the highest office of the ANC by a crushing wave of support generated by the ANC Youth League and trade union federation Cosatu.

These days, it seems as if the president's former allies are transforming into his biggest detractors.

The league has become increasingly disrespectful of Zuma, to the point that it is openly lobbying for the removal of ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe.

Yesterday, Zuma's other ally, Cosatu leader Zwelinzima Vavi, lashed out at him, his party and the fragile state of the alliance Cosatu shares with the South African Communist Party.

A clearly frustrated Vavi said: "We have reached a stalemate on the pact and the issue of the alliance as strategic political centre. These conditions will lead to the return of the marginalisation of the alliance."

Most tellingly, Vavi singled out issues that have been priorities for the union federation, but appear to be of lesser importance to the ANC - the labour brokering legislation, the national health insurance plan and corrupt individuals who use the government for personal enrichment.

More significantly though, Vavi threatened to withhold union support for next year's local government elections, saying Cosatu would refuse to support candidates "known to be corrupt or lazy".

This from a man who determinedly held up Zuma as the political answer to former president Thabo Mbeki, calling him a "political tsunami" before the ANC's conference in Polokwane.

For Zuma, who was carried to victory in Polokwane on the backs of the league and Vavi, the outbursts of anger must be hugely discomfiting.
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We will keep pressure on ANC - Cosatu
Stephen Grootes, Eyewitness News, 27 August 2010

Cosatu said it would keep up the pressure on the ANC, despite being labelled an opposition party.

The relationship between the two organisations has grown increasingly fraught over the last few months after members of the ANC’s national working committee threatened to try and discipline Cosatu General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

The trade union federation is getting increasingly angry with the ruling party but it still said it has no plans to form its own political party. It has labelled the tripartite alliance as dysfunctional.

Vavi said the alliance is in the same state it was when Thabo Mbeki led the ANC.

Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini said they would not stop talking about corruption.

The federation on Thursday said the ANC and government were being paralysed by a new tendency taking over the ruling party that is simply using state power to accumulate money.

Vavi said the organisation will not campaign in areas where local government candidates are corrupt. He also differs with the ANC on the idea of a media tribunal, but did say self-regulation of the press was not working.
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Vavi berates ‘dysfunctional’ alliance
WILSON JOHWA, Business Day, 27 August 2010

THE ruling tripartite alliance is “dysfunctional”, with sharp divisions preventing a scheduled summit from happening, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said yesterday.

In its harshest words since Jacob Zuma was elected president of the African National Congress (ANC) ruling party, Cosatu said problems — particularly over economic policy — had put an end to the post- Polokwane honeymoon.

Corruption and individuals using government for personal gain were aggravating divisions.

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi told a media briefing SA was rapidly becoming a “predatory state”, a country where the First Family fed first, followed by other well-connected elites in order of importance .

The labour federation said an alliance summit due to have convened after the Soccer World Cup had failed to materialise “for fear of an implosion as a result of fundamental differences on the question of where the power lies”.

Mr Vavi said Cosatu has lost hope a bilateral meeting with the ANC would happen ahead of next month’s national general council.

In an apparent dig at Mr Zuma, Cosatu said a lack of decisive leadership has worsened differences over macroeconomic policy, along with the government’s failure to adopt a growth path or sufficiently back its new industrial strategy. There is also no progress on national health insurance or legislation outlawing labour brokers. Instead non priority initiatives, such as the proposed media tribunal, are taking centre stage.

“The mood is a mood of anger and disappointed expectation and despair among many members of the federation,” Mr Vavi said.

Describing as “outrageous” the recent Arcelor-Mittal SA deal, in which Mr Zuma’s son benefited, Mr Vavi said Cosatu is working with civic society to build a “powerful anticorruption” structure that will call on lawyers, accountants and auditors to conduct preliminary investigations.
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NW Premier intimidates striking workers
Solly Phetoe, COSATU NW Provincial Secretary, 25 August 2010

COSATU in the North West and its public sector affiliates were disappointed about the conduct of the premier and his office with their attempt to break the strike by issuing an intimidating letter calling workers to go to work.

We want to inform the premier that we are aware of the interim court order and we do not need an interpreter or a messenger to explain to us.

We also want to remind the premier that our public sector unions have attempted to engage her managers in agreeing on the minimum service in essential services but they refused to engage and therefore we were left with no option but to go on full strike.

We want to remind the premier that she has more challenges like those of corruption, governance and providing political leadership which she has to deal with than becoming a messenger and interpreter of court orders to our members

COSATU want to emphasise that we respect the court order but we will not accept and allow our members to intimidated.

We will intensify our action until our demands are met.

striker

our gov. will unfortunately not budge! Anyone in his right mind will give in to the public servants demands & go back to normality for the countrys sake! But the gov. doesnt care! & will deduct salary from each striker to get richer - money for themselves- so they win both ways- poor public servants are losing out yet again! ↲
Anon. teacher on strike

Lesbian & Gay Equality Project supports the Public Sector Strike

Natasha Vally, Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, 29 August 2010

 

The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project (LGEP) fully supports the public sector employees’ demands for a decent living wage and good working conditions.

We recognise that the strike action being undertaken by public sector workers comes after months of negotiations. Public sector unions have moderated their demands to a 8.6% wage increase and R1000 housing allowance. We also recognise that striking, historically and currently, is one of the only means of mobilising by workers once reasonable demands are not met.

We condemn the government and those in the seats of parliament who decry public sector workers, yet have spent months stalling and being resistant to the requests made by public sector unions. The cost of the World Cup, gladly taken on by government, would have been enough to pay the housing allowance for almost two and a half million workers for five years.

As the LGEP we acknowledge that attempts to stall the strike by bringing in, mostly unpaid volunteers, is crossing the picket line. The burden under which public healthcare workers, doctors and nurses have to carry out their work is unbearable. HIV/AIDS, TB and other infectious diseases are overwhelming our hospitals and clinics. Posts have been frozen for years leading to a shortage of personnel. It is estimated that there is a shortage of more than 80,000 healthcare workers. Public sector doctors often work a 36 hour shift and at current levels there is just 1 doctor for every 3,800 people that use the public healthcare system. Operating theatres and trauma units are often closed due to lack of supplies.

In a country with one of the largest discrepancies between the rich and poor in the world, upholding that quality education and healthcare be accessible only to the rich is an affront on dignity, our history and the majority of people in this country.

The public sector strike has the full support of the LGEP. We call on all queers, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people across the country to join striking workers in their demands against miserable working conditions and wages.

The way to end the strike and to begin to ensure long-term quality healthcare and education for those in our country is for government to stop the intimidation of strikers, agree to their demands and begin to seriously address the major discrepancies between the private and public healthcare and education systems.

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