The outcome of an urgent interdict launched by National Union of Metal Workers South Africa (Numsa) on Thursday was indicative of the outcomes of the divisions which have plagued trade union federation Cosatu – there are neither winners nor losers in this battle.
Judge Brian Mashile ordered that Numsa’s bid to have Friday’s special central executive committee (CEC) halted, was unsuccessful.
Numsa is expected to be expelled from Cosatu at this meeting because of its decision not to support the ANC in the general elections this year, which went against Cosatu’s constitution.
Mashile said the matter should remain on the roll should Numsa wish to have the court action reinstated.
At the centre of Numsa’s arguments was that it was not clear what charges it faces in Friday’s meeting and would, as a result, be prejudiced. Cosatu argues otherwise.
Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini, on the steps of the high court in Johannesburg at midday on Thursday, remained unrepentant in his views that Numsa has a case to answer. “We are not talking about any charges. We are talking about not complying with the constitution of the federation,” he said.
Dlamini said he was “really happy with the outcome of the court” because it gave weight to “legitimate Cosatu meetings”.
So what are the anomalies that Numsa have committed?
Cosatu has alleged that Numsa’s first crime was its attempt to march on the federation. Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim denied this.
The second charge they face is an undertaking by the union not to pay subscription fees until a special national congress is convened. Jim responded that the union did not honour this undertaking and have been paying their monthly subscription fees. The union said it has a valid reason not to.
The union has prepared a list of what it calls “neo-liberal” policies and decisions taken by the ANC as a means of defence. “We decided not to spend workers money on a right-wing agenda,” Jim said.
But the most significant charge against Numsa, is its decision to extend the union’s scope into other industries. This, Dlamini said, was the crux of the matter.
Jim returned that “every union have extended their scope. But they only have a problem with Numsa,” he said.
Also a cross against the union is their decision not to pay a levy towards the South African Communist Party. “We will not pay money to Blade Nzimande who crushes workers,” Jim said.
These five points of concerns or charges – depends who you talk to – may or may not be the only matters that will be raised against Numsa.
Cosatu’s lawyer Pearce Roodt SC refused to accept a suggestion by judge Mashile that Cosatu provided an undertaking not to add anything else in the case against Numsa.
He said Cosatu was bound by the agenda of the meeting, which includes the above listed concerns. But should some CEC members raise anything else, Numsa can come back to court to dispute this.
In the meantime Numsa has decided to delay the paying of this month’s subscription fees, pending the outcome of Friday’s meeting.
On Wednesday, Cosatu issued Numsa with an invoice for R2.2-million. But it is wait-and-see for now. As it has been since August 2013.