Trade union federation Cosatu has resolved to amend its constitution to allow it to take control of affiliated unions that are experiencing leadership problems and divisions.
The decision, taken at Cosatu’s 13th congress in Midrand, will curb the autonomy of affiliated unions, which has rendered them almost impenetrable to interventions by the federation’s leaders.
New Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi told the Mail & Guardian that the ability to intervene in problematic unions would ensure better services for members and, ultimately, entice more workers to join affiliated unions.
“What is key is to enable the federation to make decisive interventions. At the same time that resolution must not give us too much power,” Losi said.
“In other words, leaders of the federation must not be able to create problems in unions, just so that they can take control.”
The federation also resolved to help specific unions— the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union, the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union and the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) — to “consolidate their unity and the renewal process”.
Samwu was absent from the congress after defaulting on its affiliation fee to Cosatu, despite members paying their required fee to the union. Now there are fears the union may split as two factions fight over the use of its financial resources.
Losi said Cosatu would have to get to the bottom of what was sparking divisions among its affiliated unions.
Cosatu delegates also resolved to support the ANC’s election campaign ahead of next year’s general elections, saying it would “mobilise members to vote for a decisive ANC victory”.
It called on the South African Communist Party to do the same, though the SACP has threatened to go solo should the ANC commit to reconfiguring the alliance so that all its members have equal decision-making powers.
Cosatu resolved to support the SACP’s electoral ambitions should the ANC fail to reconfigure the alliance after the 2019 elections.
“As the congress, we call on the SACP to deepen the implementation of the road map for a working-class contest of future elections, if the alliance is not radically reconfigured as resolved.”