Numsa launches new labour federation

Johannesburg - The long-awaited workers’ federation founded by the Numsa and its allies will likely be launched on May 1st this year.

The group of unions announced in Johannesburg on Monday that they were considering converting the planned workers summit into a founding meeting of its federation which will be independent and militant in character.

Members of the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa, the country's largest union, march to highlight high unemployment. File picture: Rogan Ward/Reuters. Credit: REUTERS

However not all unions in the group committed to being part of the federation.

Disgruntled Cosatu unions including the Food and Allied Workers Union, South Africa Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union and the SA Football Players Union said they still needed to consult their members on the matter.

“The more direct conception of the Workers Summit, we have agreed, must be politically won with our friends and allies. We want an independent, militant and fighting workers movement capable of working with other civil society formations to drive change. A failure to do this will not only make us lose not only the moment but will be abdication of our revolutionary responsibility to the working people,” said a statement released by the group.

In a bid to move past the political wrangling that paralysed the labour movement during the bitter struggle for control of Cosatu, the grouping said it would embark on a new chapter to rebuild.

It said the new federation would be the vehicle for programmes targeted at various socio-economic issues, including the renewal of the protests against e-tolls and labour brokers.

“We are moving out of the boardrooms and into the workplaces and communities where our people are facing the consequences of a bankrupt economic system that delivers poverty, inequality and unemployment, a system that allows billionaires to flourish while basic needs, food, water, electricity, decent schools and healthcare are denied to millions of our people,” the group said.

Unhappiness with the current state of the economy, government policies and the marginalisation of workers were some of the reasons which had inspired the foundation of the new movement, they said.

The Plus Nine unions also planned to launch a new recruitment campaign aimed at unionising 71% of South African workers who are currently not members of any labour organisation.

It has also identified what it described as a “crisis of representation” as the reason millions of people were feeling disempowered and marginalised.

“The State has increasing become an instrument of class oppression, especially in terms of quelling community protest, surveillance and secrecy, derailing democratic organisations, undermining of existing democratic processes, and serving as a cover for institutionalised corruption,” said the unions.

Numsa had already indicated it would through its civil society organ, the United Front, support independent candidates who would be taking part in this year’s local government elections.

Its plans to launch a socialist workers political party were also in the works.

The group stated that communities across all provinces were already being organised to strengthen grassroots organisations as they work towards building class consciousness.

Numsa has also been guaranteed support by the group for the union's strike action against the contested retirement reforms.

While the Section 77 strike application launched at the National Economic Development and Labour Council was still being considered, the union said it would begin a mass action which kicks off on Tuesday.

Workers have been called on to take part in lunch-hour mass general meetings and factory demonstration.

The union is protesting the implementation of the retirement reforms without consultation, demanding the law be scrapped to allow workers the opportunity to weigh in on it as it affected their personal retirement savings.

Labour Bureau