Labour regroups after damp-squib jobs summit

South Africa’s labour movements have been sent back to the drawing board after the presidential jobs summit failed to arrive at an agreement with big business on a moratorium on job cuts.

Instead, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) settled on the state placing its own retrenchment plans of up to 30 000 workers on hold.

Cosatu called a special central executive commitment meeting on Monday to discuss the outcomes of the summit, as well as implementation of its recent congress resolutions.

“There were reports that were never finalised but of course the jobs summit will be discussed,” Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said.

The summit was convened in Johannesburg by President Cyril Ramaphosa and included Cosatu, the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa), Business Unity South Africa, the Information Technology Association and other business representatives.

“We identified the priority areas for labour at the summit: to protect jobs, create new jobs and what are the reforms required to get more jobs,” Fedusa general secretary Dennis George said.

While private businesses did not commit to halting retrenchments, it did agree to a new process before announcing their decision.

READ MORE: Ramaphosa’s Jobs Summit plan to create 275 000 new jobs annually

“If I’m a CEO of a mine, I will make an announcement to say they are going to retrench 500 people because of the gold price. That’s not a fair process. You must first look at the problem then make an announcement,” George said.

The fledgling South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) was conspicuously missing from the summit. The federation was invited as an observer and was not allowed to make any input, and decided not to attend the summit.

“It’s because we are not affiliated to Nedlac [National Economic Development and Labour Council], which we know was quite a deliberate decision … so it’s all very political,” said Saftu spokesperson Patrick Craven.

The summit established a presidential committee, including the presidency, Cosatu and Fedusa, and will meet again after the investment summit on October 25.

Saftu had not yet decided if it would attend that gathering, Craven said.

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Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

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