THE COSATU affiliates who managed to force the federation’s president to declare a date for their special national congress now face another hurdle, getting the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) into the congress.
The group of eight unions, fresh from their victory in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, will have to move fast to change Numsa’s status as an expelled affiliate and they have already begun exploring the different options at their disposal.
Cosatu yesterday bowed to pressure and entered into a settlement with the unions, agreeing in court papers to issue a notice for a special national congress by June 28 and host the event itself on July 13 and 14.
“Our argument will be that Numsa should be a part of the congress because it was part of the applicants calling for the national congress. That’s where the next battle line is. We are going to decide as a group whether the battle must be taken to the congress itself or it must be fought to be made a pre-condition to that congress,” said Food and Allied Workers’ Union general secretary, Katishi Masemola.
Numsa was expelled from Cosatu by its central executive committee last September, after the executive charged the union with contravening the federation’s constitution.
Cosatu wanted Numsa to withdraw its 2013 special congress resolutions which were allegedly contrary to the federation’s constitution.
Numsa’s general secretary Irvin Jim said the union's focus would now be on their pending court action.
Last year the union launched an application challenging their expulsion from Cosatu, and if successful it would lead the biggest delegation to the special national congress in July. Numsa puts its latest membership figure at 365 000, making it the country’s largest single union.
“Numsa and its allies, have been calling for the special national congress over the past 18 months, in order to allow the owners of the federation, workers to deal decisively and unapologetically with the paralysis that have emerged within the Federation,” said Numsa spokesman Castro Ngobese in a statement.
While hopeful about what the July congress represents, Numsa’s allies are also aware of the implications of a scenario where Numsa does not qualify to take part in the congress as per the Cosatu constitution.
“Our approach will be a combination of legal strategy and engagements with Cosatu. Numsa currently has its own court application next Monday where there will be a decision on the date for the court hearing on Numsa’s application,” said Masemola.
Numsa also still had to work hard to earn the support of Cosatu unions whose vote will be critical to its future, should it be presented with an option to appeal its expulsion at the special congress. But they are not the only ones who won’t have it easy for some time to come.
Cash-strapped Cosatu also needs to raise millions of rands to finance the congress in July, a process that might have to be repeated all over again in September when it is due to hold its ordinary congress.