The great Buddy Holly composed a memorable song and judging by recent ‘attacks’ in the press this may just be happening to Cosatu.

Slippin’ and a-slidin’, peepin’ and a-hidin’

Been told a long time ago-ho-ho-oh-woh

Slippin’ and a-slidin’, peepin’ and a-hidin’

Recent articles, letters and reports that first appeared in Business Day

Articles, letters and reports with extracts

Cosatu on ‘dangerous slope’, says Mantashe

BY NATASHA MARRIAN, 13 March 2013, 06:05

AFRICAN National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Gwede Mantashe on Tuesday threw down the gauntlet to the party’s labour ally, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), warning of a rocky road ahead in South Africa’s rapidly changing labour relations scene.

In a hard-hitting speech to Cosatu’s bargaining conference in Boksburg, Mr Mantashe outlined in stark terms the federation’s possible fate should it continue on its current “dangerous downward slope”, amid simmering tensions within trade union ranks.

Although the relationship among the allies has seldom been easy, and criticism from the ANC nothing new, Mr Mantashe’s appraisal will have hit home, given that he himself is a former leader of Cosatu’s biggest affiliate, the National Union of Mineworkers.

. . . .

Mr Mantashe was unsparing in his criticism of Cosatu’s inability to adapt to the new labour landscape, marked by internal divisions, rebellion among workers and outside “attacks” from legal challenges to labour laws, companies sidestepping bargaining processes and rival unions taking on established Cosatu affiliates.

Cosatu was weak, its organisers and staff members were inexperienced and the federation was “downright slow”, Mr Mantashe said.   The quality of worker leaders had declined and its unions rarely had spokes people, so they were absent from the battle of ideas, he said, pointing out these were his observations “from a distance”.

Mr Mantashe warned anarchy and rowdiness were taking root in collective bargaining — among Cosatu unions too — and this “invited” the state to intervene.   Once police were “invited in with your behaviour”, the focus shifted from the genuine cause to issues of police brutality.   There is an “active destruction of the right to strike”.   Cosatu had lost its status as collective bargaining trailblazer.

“My conclusion is that Cosatu is on a dangerous downward slope.   Unions are under siege and less equipped to deal with the difficult situations they face.

. . . .

Worker leaders had to be trained, to ensure that worker control was upheld in the federation, he said.   This saved leaders from being “driven by bureaucrats” and being relegated to “loudhailers of ideas” which they neither knew nor fully understood.   Such leaders then became nervous or aggressive.

NUM, Numsa turf battle set to intensify

BY NATASHA MARRIAN, 15 March 2013, 08:12

THE turf battle between the Congress of South African Trade Union’s (Cosatu’s) two largest affiliates — the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) — is set to intensify as the federation seeks to return to the “one sector, one union” principle.

A long-standing battle continues to rage between the NUM and Numsa over the representation of workers at Eskom.   The power utility is meant to be NUM terrain.

The stakes are high, as the workers the NUM wants returned from Numsa number about 80,000, according to union sources.

This battle intensified last year as the NUM threatened to withhold its subscription — about R800,000 a month — to Cosatu should the latter fail to intervene in its favour.   A NUM national executive committee meeting last month urged the union’s top leaders to raise the matter at the Cosatu central executive committee meeting two weeks ago, to ensure that Numsa returns its members employed by Eskom.

The battle has brought about a factional rift in Cosatu, pitting a group of affiliate leaders aligned to the federation’s president Sdumo Dlamini against others favouring general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.   The NUM is at the forefront of the unions aligned to Mr Dlamini and Numsa backs Mr Vavi.

. . . .

Numsa’s stance on its members at Eskom was that workers were not “rhinos” who were “poached”, rather they chose to belong to Numsa.   General secretary Irvin Jim said on Thursday the issue would be dealt with internally.

Speaking on the sidelines of Cosatu’s bargaining conference, which ends on Friday, Mr Dlamini said the matter was “sensitive”.   “There are a number of Cosatu unions guilty of poaching, we have to go through a process of sorting through them”.

Clothing case court order just the start

BY CAROL PATON, 15 March 2013, 10:15

THE judgment by the high court in Pietermaritzburg this week, which struck down the extension of an agreement of the National Bargaining Council for the Clothing Industry to employers not part of the council, is meaningless for both workers and employers, as a subsequent wage agreement that supersedes it is already in place.

However, its significance remains in that it is the second successful legal challenge to a bargaining council on the grounds that the council lacks representivity.   Where a bargaining council lacks representivity, it cannot insist that its agreements be extended to non-parties.

. . . .

Bowman Gilfillan director and labour law specialist John Brand says that while Wednesday’s ruling could not be interpreted as a fatal blow against the bargaining council system, the ruling had tackled it at its point of vulnerability.

“We all know what has been happening: the minister has been illegally extending agreements as representivity of the councils is in many cases lacking.   Now those chickens are coming home to roost,” Mr Brand says.

He says: “If agreements can’t be extended to non-parties then everyone will say there is no point being there.   Then you could see the bargaining council system begin to unravel”.

Under the Labour Relations Act, the minister can also extend bargaining council agreements under a second provision.   But in this case, she must be able to show that by not extending the agreement, damage would be done to the collective bargaining system.   Mr Kriel says that in future, all applications to the minister to extend agreements would be made under this provision.   “This is an easier and more flexible way of extending agreements and we will ask government to always do it this way in the future,” he says .

The Free Market Foundation launched a challenge of a different sort to bargaining councils last week.

The foundation argues that the clause in the Labour Relations Act which allows bargaining councils to compel the minister to extend an agreement where all parties are representative is unconstitutional.   This is because, it argues, private actors — such as bargaining councils — do not have the right to legislate for others.

EDITORIAL: Relief all round at ruling on small clothing factories wages

15 March 2013

THE Pietermaritzburg High Court ruling exempting a number of small clothing factories in rural KwaZulu-Natal from a 2010 bargaining council wage agreement is obviously important from the perspective of their shareholders and employees, but is of little relevance to the Free Market Foundation’s challenge to the constitutionality of the bargaining council system.

That is because Judge Piet Koen based his decision on the fact that Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant failed to check that a majority of clothing industry employees were represented by the sector bargaining council, as required by the Labour Relations Act if a wage agreement is to be extended to nonparties by ministerial fiat.   It was, in other words, a technical issue rather than a judgment on the legality of the bargaining council system.

. . . .

Still, the principle is important: it is bad enough that a majority of companies and unionised workers should be encouraged by the law to impose their will on a minority of small businesses and their employees; it is so much worse when it is a minority doing the bullying.   Sactwu and the Department of Labour should rather focus their efforts on ensuring that basic conditions of employment are within the law.

. . . .

Beneath the rhetoric, Sactwu has been trying desperately to avoid being seen to be party to any noncompliance application that results in rural clothing workers losing their jobs, even though it is as contractually bound to the terms of bargaining council agreements as the major employers.

It doesn’t like the real-world consequences of riding roughshod over the law of supply and demand in the labour market any more than small employers and the unemployed.

LETTER: Numsa stands out like sore thumb

Jessie Duarte, Deputy Secretary-General, ANC 15 March 2013

RECENTLY, the country and the alliance woke up to news of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA’s (Numsa’s) rejection of the National Development Plan (NDP).

This strange development happens hot on the heels of the most extensive policy consultation process that the African National Congress (ANC) has ever embarked on.

. . . .

The adoption of the NDP was therefore not a surprise.   The ANC’s proposal was predicated on the material conditions facing our country and the reality that transformation of our society requires the direct intervention of the state in partnership with the private sector, including an infrastructure development plan that would provide facilities such as roads, houses, sewerage plants, water reticulation, schools and clinics.

. . . .

Numsa is standing out like a sore thumb, against the grain of the entire nation in its poor attempt to create further uncertainty in the local and international investor markets — the stability necessary to create the very jobs that Numsa claims the NDP will never create.

But we are somewhat not surprised — Numsa has always driven a populist, short-term vision for our country, a constraint we have lived with in the strategic alliance we have forged with the Congress of South African Trade Unions, where Numsa is an important ally.

. . . .

We hope that Numsa leadership will come to its senses and contribute to the call of the National Planning Commission for all South Africans to play their part in implementing a plan that has for once united all sectors of society in a common vision that will take us a step closer to defeating the triple challenges of inequality, poverty and unemployment.

LETTER: The battle continues

Terence Corrigan, SBP Research Director 15 March 2013

DESPITE the court victory by a group of small Newcastle clothing factories (Victory for small firms in minimum wages case, March 14), I suspect that the battle over the extension of collective bargaining agreements is far from over.

In all likelihood, we can expect a phalanx of opposition from the government, labour and even business interests for which the current system is either an ideological holy cow, or pays dividends of one sort or another.

The case is, however, important in that it highlights the problems that the labour regime has caused.   It emphasises that small business is business — difficult business — operating in line with incentives and disincentives.

. . . .

The court case was a victory.   It may be a short-lived one.   And while one respects the business owners who took up this case, perhaps the real message is that if SA was serious about small business promotion, they would not have had to.

Fedusa vows to fight in defence of SA bargaining system

BY SAMUEL MUNGADZE, 14 March 2013, 07:18

THE Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) has accused the Free Market Foundation of pursuing an internationally-funded campaign to destabilise the bargaining system in the country.

The Free Market Foundation has filed papers with the Constitutional Court challenging the constitutionality of the Labour Relations Act and the extension of bargaining council agreements to nonparties, saying they boost unemployment in South Africa.

The labour federation said it would get involved in the pending litigation as a “friend of the court”.

Fedusa declared its intentions at its annual collective bargaining conference, which ended in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

The politically nonaligned labour federation is the country’s second-largest after the Congress of South African Trade Unions, an ally of the African National Congress.

. . . .

In its conference resolutions, Fedusa said it would fight any attempt to tamper with its members’ rights to collective bargaining and “the opportunistic attempts of the Free Market Foundation”.

The labour federation further said it would resist attempts by other unions and employers to increase recognition thresholds.   This would exclude its affiliates and their members from existing recognition agreements.

. . . .

Mr George said the conference had reaffirmed Fedusa’s support for the National Development Plan.   “The federation supports a long-term vision for our country to correct the current constraints, which lead to social decay and inequality, including nondelivery of services to the poorest of the poor.”