/ 20 November 2009

Cosatu meets to review strategy

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) meets next week to take stock of its relations with the ruling African National Congress and progress made in economic restructuring to benefit the country’s poor.

Cosatu, which says it has more than two million members across the country, aims to convince President Jacob Zuma to change economic policies to improve the lives of millions of workers.

The meeting of top leaders of South Africa’s unions comes just over a week after Cosatu, Zuma’s ANC and the South African Communist Party met to solve their differences.

Analysts expect Cosatu will look at its relations with the ANC and how to leverage that relationship to bring about the changes unions want.

”There is an effort from the ANC to restate its own position and not appear to be bowing to the will of the unions. The unions are going to have to assess their strategy,” said Mike Davies, Middle East and Africa analyst at Eurasia Group.

”Are they [Cosatu] going to approach and attack or try to put pressure on a range of issues in order to gain certain concessions in a number of areas,” Davies added.

The federation’s central executive committee will meet for three days from November 23 and about 100 members of 21 unions under Cosatu’s umbrella will discuss political and organisational challenges.

Cosatu has been pushing the ANC government to increase spending, scrap the inflation targets that guide monetary policy, cut interest rates and intervene to weaken the rand, which has gained about 20% against the dollar this year.

After the ANC, Cosatu and SACP summit, the allies said they had agreed to look at broadening the mandate of the central bank beyond only tackling inflation. They also formed a team to study the effects of the strong rand.

Peter Attard Montalto, Emerging Markets Economist at Nomura International, said he did not expect much beyond what was discussed at the allies’ summit. ”Although they may start to lay their position out for the inflation targeting and rand policy consultations,” Attard Montalto said.

South Africa’s biggest union, the national Union of Mineworkers, said job losses remain the key issue.

”The key issue for us is job losses. We want to hear what Cosatu is going to do to reverse the crisis created by the global economic meltdown,” a NUM official said.

Since the start of the year, about a million jobs have been lost in South Africa as the country battled its first recession in 17 years. The country’s manufacturing sector has been the hardest hit. — Reuters