It takes guts to admit that everything is not as it should be in your organisation.   Mr Vavi must be applauded for raising these concerns in public and vowing to do something about them.  Trade unions are required by law (LRA s 95) to be completely independent.   They may not be under the direct or indirect control of any employer or employers’ organisation and must be free of any interference or influence of any kind from any employer or employers’ organisation.   In addition the constitution of a trade union must state that it is ‘an association not for gain’.   It must be very tempting for union officials and full-time representatives (shop stewards) to accept ‘rewards’ in return for doing ‘favours’ for management.

This does not only happen in South Africa.   In 2010 a scandal at Volkswagen in Germany involved employee representatives and several former managers –  Former Volkswagen Exec Convicted In Corruption Scandal.

Link to article first published in Business Day on 7 Feb 2013

Don’t sweep corruption in unions under the carpet, Vavi warns – Natasha Marrian

CONGRESS of South African Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Thursday that corruption within the ranks of the federation and its affiliates was a worrying trend, with 12% of affiliate members having personally witnessed corruption within their unions.

This issue had to be tackled head-on, he said, speaking at the National Union of Mineworkers’ bargaining council in Midrand.

On Thursday, Mr Vavi said corruption within the ranks of the union movement was something no one wanted to talk about, but workers were clearly worried about the phenomenon.

It was of “huge concern” that a third of members of Cosatu affiliates alleged that there was corruption in their unions and that 12% of members had personally observed corruption within their unions.

“We cannot be calling on the government to take stern action against corruption and then sweep it under the carpet in our own house,” he said.

Mr Vavi said whether or not the perception of corruption in these unions was a reality was irrelevant — what mattered was that the perception existed.

“If such high numbers of our members think there is corruption then you must be worried …   and we must leave no stone unturned to seek out the truth in every instance where an allegation of such a nature is made,” Mr Vavi said.

Corruption in the labour environment included taking bribes from management, “selling out” to management, creating privileges for leaders and abusing union funds.

He said it was encouraging that the NUM was reviewing the conditions and responsibilities of full-time shop stewards to address the perception of corruption among them.