Time to build a new independent, militant, anti-imperialist trade union federation – NUMSA

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IN THE wake of the COSATU special congress, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) has declared: ‘The time has arrived to start with the building blocks of forming a new independent, democratic, worker controlled, militant, anti-imperialist trade union federation.’

NUMSA held its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, from Tuesday 21 July to Thursday 23 July, at Vincent Mabuyakhulu Conference Centre, Newtown, Johannesburg. In a statement following the NEC, NUMSA said:

A. On COSATU

‘It is not surprising that the so-called COSATU Special National Congress confirmed the positions taken by the S’dumo faction of National Office Bearers. If you are also the referee and make up the rules it is much easier to win the game. The composition of the delegations to the congress was the result of a highly manipulated process.

‘Over the last months, hundreds of shop stewards, office bearers and staff have been purged from many of the unions present. Not satisfied with that, a court order to accredit legitimate SATAWU delegates was defied.

‘Even then they were not sufficiently confident that they would win the vote. They had to resort to extraordinary measures, banning the media and consistently refusing a ballot, in favour of a show of hands. In the face of such manipulation, it was workers’ democracy which died in Cosatu on 13-14 July 2015.

‘The NEC appreciated the principled, courageous stance of the affiliates that have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us, since our illegal expulsion during the night of the long knives and backstabbing on 7 November 2014. Their bravery has been a living expression of the worker’s battle slogan “an injury to one, is an injury to all”, amidst malicious and demonising allegations made by COSATU’s National Office Bearers, particularly by S’dumo Dlamini, in collaboration with his political handlers in the SA Communist Party and African National Congress.

‘Our NEC’s discussion on the outcomes of the Special National Congress was comradely and frank as usual. The discussion concluded with a resolution which noted that:

• The fraudulent capturing of the COSATU Special National Congress did not at all achieve the unity and cohesion inside COSATU or the leadership change that the nine unions called for when they submitted their constitutional request for the Congress two years back.

• The unconstitutional conduct of the majority in the COSATU CEC, led by the factional national leadership clique, has killed all prospects of reclaiming Cosatu as an independent, democratic, worker controlled, militant, socialist orientated and anti-imperialist trade union federation.

• The ANC, SACP and the State have succeeded in capturing and redirecting Cosatu to become a mere instrument for securing the votes of the working class every five years, with absolutely no COSATU fighting workers programme of action to deal with the job blood bath we see in retrenchments, increased levels of unemployment, poverty, inequality and corruption.

• COSATU has effectively been stolen by the state. S’dumo Dlamini is only a pawn in a bigger class and state initiative to hijack the Cosatu of Elijah Barayi and use it as a means of controlling the organised working class in the interests of the ruling comprador bourgeoisie.

‘The NEC concluded that NUMSA, together with other affiliates in the Group of 9+ unions, has done everything in its power to reclaim COSATU, through its legal and organisational endeavours. ‘The time has arrived to start with the building blocks of forming a new independent, democratic, worker controlled, militant, anti-imperialist trade union federation.

‘We must deal with the fact that 70% of workers employed within the South African economy are not unionised and that the COSATU 30 year old resolution of One Country-One Federation has not and shall not be realised in COSATU’s current form and Alliance with the ANC and the SACP.

‘The NEC also resolved to convene provincial workers summits to discuss and convey the central message, and to engage all like-minded affiliates inside COSATU and unions outside COSATU to ensure that we share with the rank and file the inevitability of our failure to reclaim COSATU.

‘Before the end of July, we will convene a Special Joint NEC of the 9+ unions to discuss the roadmap towards a National Workers Summit to take place during the month of October 2015. It should include representatives of workers inside and outside Cosatu, with an agenda to talk about the future of the labour movement in South Africa.

B. Marikana report

‘The NEC discussed the Farlam Commission’s Report as publicly released by State President Jacob Zuma, on the circumstances that led to the Marikana Massacre on August 12, 2012. ‘The NEC reaffirmed its position that the Marikana massacre shall go down in history as the first post-Apartheid massacre committed against workers by the democratic State.

‘It concluded that the report was a whitewash and made a mockery of the massacre that occurred at Marikana. In the interest of bringing justice and lasting closure for those workers killed, those workers who remain and the widows and families of the victims, the NEC made the following demands:

‘The National Police Commissioner General Riah Phiyega should be relieved of her duties with immediate effect; she and others implicated should be prosecuted for their role in the massacre;

‘The Farlam report must be given to an independent tribunal to review Farlam’s failure to draw the proper conclusions from the evidence in front of him. In particular, the actions of the former Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa and the Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa must be re-evaluated so that they are held properly accountable for their actions in instigating the massacre. We must not stand by and see, yet again, officials take the rap for the sins of their Executive masters.’

The statement added:

D. United Front and Movement for Socialism

‘The NEC approved a plan for policy workshops at regional and national levels to further discuss progress and policy for the United Front and the Movement for Socialism. In Numsa’s time-honoured, democratic manner, policy documents have been circulated to regions and locals for discussion throughout the union.

‘In this process, Numsa will firm up its positions on key issues of the character of the United Front ahead of the projected national launch in December. There will also be lively debate on the nature of the working class political organ, leading to a Central Committee decision at the end of the year.’ Later, it said:

F. Steel industry and job losses

‘The NEC was highly concerned about the growing jobs bloodbath in the precious metal and steel industry which is the backbone of Numsa’s membership base and a foundation of our manufacturing industry. Evraz Highveld steel is under business rescue and has issued an s189 notice proposing the retrenchment of over 1000 workers. Macsteel has served an s198 notice to the union proposing the retrenchment of over 600 workers. Trident Steel has recently dismissed over 700 workers.

‘Scaw Metals is bleeding. ArcelorMittal is on the brink of closing its Vereeniging plant which employs over 1000 workers and has been operating for over one hundred years. Where will our auto manufacturing industry be, together with its supplier base of component manufacturers, without South African steel and South African aluminium? Already, our faxes and emails are bloated with notices from the bosses on retrenchments; liquidations, lay-offs and company closures.

‘Obviously this will have serious and negative consequences not only for our ailing economy, but for the thousands of families that are dependent for survival on those employed in this strategic industry. Our country is well-known for being Olympic Gold medalists in the highest number of service delivery protests, in youth unemployment, and in inequality, as a result of the wrong, failed and disastrous economic policies of our once beloved, now neoliberal ANC government.

‘It is well past time for the government to protect our steel industry. We have met with Directors General of the DTI and EDD and they have indicated that they will support a comprehensive application for the whole steel industry to ITAC to push them to increase the tariff to protect the local steel industry. This matter is now extremely urgent.

‘In 1994 manufacturing accounted for 23% of GDP. In 2015 it now accounts for only 11% of GDP thereby suggesting a decline in the manufacturing industry. This decline is a direct result of ANC’s neo-liberal policies which allows China to dump products into our economy at the expense of local production. This is confirmation that the ANC government does not work in the interests of the working class and the poor and are therefore directly responsible for deepening the employment crisis.

‘The NEC welcomed the attempts being made by our national leadership in turning the tide of retrenchments. They have decisively intervened in a number of retrenchments underway, defending jobs! This work will continue. . .

H. National Day of Action – August 19 2015

‘The NEC endorsed the proposed plan for the National Day of Action against Corruption to take place on the Wednesday 19 August 2015. The union has filed a Section 77 application with the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) in order to legally protect our members so they can participate in marches that will take place around major cities and small towns across the country.’ . . .

M. The Greek situation

‘The situation in Greece, since the working class overwhelmingly rejected the austerity measures, imposed by the unelected European Troika is unacceptable. The capitulation of Syriza, to agree to privatisation is suicidal for the Greece working class and not boding well for the unity of the working class in Europe.’