Today, Cosatu vociferously opposes relaxation of our rigid labour law. Yet without this, SA has no hope whatsoever of dealing with our high unemployment levels. Cosatu sheds crocodile tears about unemployment but uses its alliance with the ANC and the SACP to entrench the position of its members and keep the jobless out of the labour market. One of its affiliates, the South African Democratic Teachers Union, is a major stumbling block to desperately needed reform of the schooling system.
Opportunity knocks with crumbling of reactionary Cosatu first appeared in BDLive today and was written by John Kane-Berman, a consultant at the South African Institute of Race Relations.
Further extracts from the article.
THE crumbling of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) comes not a moment too soon. In a way this is a pity, because the union movement that gave birth to Cosatu and other unions wrote one of the most inspiring chapters of SA’s history in the apartheid era.
Bannings in the 1950s and 1960s had destroyed black unions. But a new movement got going in the early 1970s, and this time round, bannings and other attempts at suppression failed. African workers had begun climbing the jobs ladder, so the weapon of mass dismissal that employers used against unions was blunted because workers could not be replaced as easily as in the past.
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All this changed in 1985, when the once independent Federation of South African Trade Unions rebranded itself as Cosatu and threw in its lot with the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP). The result has been destructive.
Cosatu mouths revolutionary platitudes, but it has become one of the most reactionary forces on the political scene. At times it seems even more reactionary than some of the white unions of the 1970s. Most blocked the employment of blacks in skilled jobs. But they eventually relented when white skills shortages became so serious that white unions had little choice but to acquiesce in the erosion of the industrial colour bar to keep the economy growing.
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With the crumbling of Cosatu, the way is open for the ANC to press ahead with comprehensive liberalisation of the country’s industrial relations system — which works to the advantage of 3.72-million union members and the disadvantage of 8.33-million unemployed.
Tragically, the opportunity for reform is likely to be missed. The ANC is quite simply devoid of either the leadership or the intellectual capacity to contemplate the kinds of reforms needed to shift the balance of labour law towards the unemployed.
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In the meantime, a crumbling Cosatu might have the last laugh as the ANC puts through the national minimum wage it has always wanted.