Vavi: Cosatu going back to basics to reclaim Rustenburg

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi (Madelane Cronje, M&G)

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi (Madelane Cronje, M&G)

The Congress of the South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) is going back to basics to reclaim Rustenburg, the trade federation's general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Saturday.

"It cannot be business as usual, we need to go back to basics as our 11th national congress has demanded," he told reporters after a special central executive committee (CEC) meeting.

He said the federation would hold a rally in Rustenburg in the North West province next week Saturday.

"We call on all workers in the North West, and also Limpopo and Gauteng to attend a rally and reclaim the Rustenburg area from the forces of counter revolution."

Rustenburg has been engulfed with wildcat strikes in the mining sector, which has now spilled over to a factory in Brits.

The strike started at Lonmin's Marikana Mine in August when workers demanded a monthly salary of R12 500, and elected a committee to represent them instead of a union.

The strike spread to Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) on September 14, Amplats workers were still on striking demanding a monthly salary of R16 000. The mine has fired 12 000 strikers after they failed to appear at disciplinary hearings.

The Lonmin strike ended on September 20 when workers were offered monthly salaries of between R9 000 and R11 000,

Before the agreement was reached 45 people were killed.

Ten of them in the first four days of the strike which started on August 10. 34 mineworkers were killed on August 16 during a confrontation with police.

Weakening of weapons
In Brits, workers at Pat Cornick were on strike demanding a R12 500 salary per month.

Vavi said the Lonmin Marikana incident has exposed weakness in the federation, particularly at the workplaces, which had contributed to the workers' decision to represent themselves.

"We will continue to critically analyse these weaknesses and material conditions which have lead to this phenomenon, and we will have a focused discussion in our November CEC meeting."

He said some of the weaknesses identified were the move to make being branch secretary a full time job and that the "shop steward core [was] getting younger".

He said some employers were benefiting from the unprotected strike as they saw an opportunity to fire workers without paying for the retrenchment packages they would be forced to pay if they were cutting employment numbers.

Vavi said the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) had played a critical role in improving the working conditions of mineworkers across the mining industry and in the construction and energy sector.

"Without the NUM, mineworkers would undoubtedly be competing with the worst paid sections of the manufacturing and retail sectors."

He said workers should not be allowed to be divided.

"Workers should not allow the weakening of weapons they have used to register progress so far."

He said the Rustenburg Joint Strike Co-ordinating Committee and the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) were leading the workers into the gallows and would not be there for them.

"They keep on saying 'go on, go on', [but] they cannot speak for workers. Over a period of time, workers [on strike] will realise that they have been misled."

The two organisations have been calling on mineworkers to return to work until the demand of R12 500 has been met and have also planned a national strike and a march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, next month.

Vavi said the DSM had a right to exist, but its strategy of leading workers into unprotected strike was suicidal. – Sapa.

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