South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi called for worker unity at the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union’s national elective congress on Thursday.
In a rousing speech, Vavi addressed thousands of Amcu delegates, warning that trade unions are under attack.
In his declaration of support to Amcu on the second day of the independent union’s national elective congress — its first since 2013 — Vavi said: “The department of labour has become an instrument of this class rule by the capitalist class.”
He added that trade unions have become “the full-time negotiators of section 189s” — the section of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) which governs retrenchments.
Vavi also warned of the implications to the recent amendments to the LRA, ushered in at the beginning of the year alongside the National Minimum Wage Act.
These changes to labour legislation includes the requirement for trade unions to conduct secret ballots before embarking on strike action. Vavi called this amendment “the most brutal attack on workers”.
“It essentially means, comrades, that the bosses are taking our teeth away. They are taking away our very last weapons,” Vavi said.
Vavi also had some harsh words for the labour federations — namely Cosatu, the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) and the National Council of Trade Unions (Nactu) — who gave the nod to the amendments at the National Economic Development and Labour Council.
Vavi said: “They are killing us comrades. And the tragedy is that our other federations signed for this, smiling with [President Cyril] Ramaphosa.”
Representatives from Fedusa and Nactu also gave declarations of support to Amcu on Thursday. Amcu is not affiliated with a federation.
During a press briefing on Wednesday, Amcu general secretary Jeff Mphahlele spoke on the recent threat to the trade union’s registration.
In April, it emerged that the Amcu — which rose to prominence during the labour unrest which led to the Marikana massacre in 2012 — was in danger of losing its status as a trade union when the office of the labour registrar issued a notice of its intent to cancel the registration.
The reasons provided included Amcu’s failure to hold a national elective congress and that the union has “ceased to function in terms of its constitution”.
The cancellation of the Amcu’s registration was put on hold when the union resolved to hold its national congress.
On Wednesday, Mphahlele said the union’s registration was put in jeopardy because of a politically-motivated attack on the “militant” trade union.