At least 24 trade unions have gathered in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg, for the launch of a new trade union federation, spearheaded by former Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa).
Delegates arrived in high spirits, singing revolutionary songs for the launch of the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu). They arrived in buses, cars and clad in signature red T-shirts. The launch of the new federation was the beginning of a new era for a non-politically affiliated federation, or “sweetheart unions”, said convener Vavi.
The organisers said all sectors were represented at the launch, with Numsa and the Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu) noticeably having more delegates.
Fawu resolved to leave Cosatu last year. The union had been at odds with Cosatu since the expulsion of Numsa in 2015, accusing the federation leaders, led by Sidumo Dlamini, of being biased against Numsa and Vavi.
The first day would see the agenda and the credentials before anything else could get under way. The credentials assure the eligibility of those in attendance.
“We have 1,394 voting delegates. With the absence of 10 delegates as it is, we have 1,384 voting delegates at this meeting,” said Vavi after putting on record the number of delegates of each union in attendance.
The delegates would, over the three-day meeting, elect leaders and finalise the logo and name of the federation.
The new organisation would be the country’s fourth federation after Cosatu, the Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) and the National Council of Trade Unions (Nactu). Cosatu is the biggest of all the country’s federations. Fedusa has objected to the Saftu name and requested that a different name be adopted. Fedusa reportedly said the Saftu name too closely resembles theirs.
Vavi announced there were several guests and supporters at the launch, including “FeesMustFall” movement leader Mcebo Dlamini.