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Johannesburg - Cosatu will fight to transform apartheid wage structures and craft a new minimum wage policy, president Sidumo Dlamini said on Tuesday.
“We [are] meeting here today to lodge a fight... to claim what belongs to us, the workers,” Dlamini said in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg.
“These proposals must include a national minimum wage... [and] make sure there is social protection for the unemployed.”
He was addressing a Congress of SA Trade Unions collective bargaining, organising, and campaigns conference.
The trade union federation's president was welcomed to the stage with song.
He led Cosatu national office bearers in singing struggle songs, including Umshini Wami (bring me my machine gun).
Cosatu's national office bearers were mandated by its 11th national congress - held in Midrand last year - to hold the conference, craft a new minimum wage policy, and review collective bargaining structures.
Dlamini said Cosatu would then meet with its alliance partners, the African National Congress and the SA Communist Party, and government to discuss the development of a new wage policy for the country.
“We should use every weapon at our disposal to protect and defend the integrity of collective bargaining... We have been mandated to carry out this task,” he said.
“Even if we feel the threats to undermine collective bargaining, even if it comes from a progressive government... We will take the fight.”
Dlamini lashed out at those in the education sector who criticised and tried to “undermine” the SA Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) collective bargaining.
“In the education sector there is such an attempt or process of undermining Sadtu,” he said.
“There is an open attempt to undermine collective bargaining... [There are] those who are trying to reverse those hard-earned gains.
As Sadtu and Cosatu we will fight to the bitter end. We are ready to face that particular fight.”
Earlier this month, Sadtu called on Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to resign.
The union accused her of having withdrawn an agreement that protected collective bargaining.
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe hit back at Sadtu, accusing it of failing to appreciate the importance of education.
The ANC has called for education to be declared an essential service -which was vehemently opposed by the union.
Dlamini accused bosses in the platinum mining sector of undermining collective bargaining and promoting division among workers.
“They destroy and dislodge the mineworkers by promoting another union.”
Dlamini said Cosatu would also fight the Free Market Foundation's decision to constitutionally challenge section 32 of the Labour Act.
The section allows collective bargaining agreements to extend to non-member employers and employees.
The foundation believes the practice pushes up wages and puts smaller employers out of business.
“We [are] promising them [the Free Market Foundation] we shall be there, we shall be at the Constitutional Court, they will find us waiting outside and inside as friends of the court,” Dlamini said.
“People died for those rights. Workers died for us to say 'at least there are some progressive elements of the labour sector in our country'.”
The conference would work towards developing social protection for the unemployed and improvements in basic working and living conditions for workers.
The federation also wanted access to public health, access to affordable public transport, and houses close to where people worked.
“We have come here to claim what belongs to us,” he said.
“We shall then go to the ANC and the SACP and say this collective bargaining campaign and organising conference of Cosatu has said these things must happen; come and work with us to make sure these things happen.”
Dlamini warned those trying to divide Cosatu to “keep dreaming”.
“This Cosatu remains a force of unity. We remain a formidable force that will challenge anybody who seeks to break the unity,” he said.