Once-mighty Cosatu faces ‘govt lapdog’ accusations

SACP General Secretary Blade Nzimande at Cosatu’s May Day rally held in Nelson Mandela Bay. Picture: ANA

SACP General Secretary Blade Nzimande at Cosatu’s May Day rally held in Nelson Mandela Bay. Picture: ANA

Cosatu is taking flak for signing government’s civil servants wage agreement while other unions have not, which could see Saftu gain members.

Cosatu’s leadership has been accused of turning the once-rabid fighter for workers’ rights into a government lapdog and even helping to head off a national civil service strike by signing a wage offer.

A number of other unions have refused to sign, including some of trade union federation Cosatu’s affiliates.

The fact that some of its affiliates, including the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), have accepted the ANC government’s wage offer has strengthened claims that the federation no longer represents the interests of the workers and its affiliates have become sweetheart unions in the new dispensation, say analysts.

Cosatu is accused of accepting every proposal from the state, including the R20-per-hour minimum wage and a bill that restricts workers’ rights to strike without balloting.

“Cosatu has membership, but its strength is no longer measured in terms of its membership; it depends on its proximity to policymakers [the ANC],” said political analyst Ralph Mathekga.

Another analyst, Steven Friedman, said Cosatu was a political ally of government and President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“That obviously affects its position on the government proposals but does not mean it’s a sweetheart union.”

Unless Cosatu proved to its membership its strategy would improve their circumstances, it stood to lose members to the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu).

Popcru has signed the wage agreement with the employer while others represented in the Public Service Bargaining Council are timid about it. Many claim to still be consulting.

The government offered a 7% rise for junior staff for 2018/19, a 6.5% increase for mid-level workers and 6% for senior officials.

The Health & Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa) told The Citizen it had rejected the 7% government offer and was ready to fight to achieve the 7.5% workers’ demand.

Hospersa believed the current offer did not address the economic challenges they faced as public service employees.

The National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers, a Saftu affiliate, also rejected the offer.

Cosatu’s National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) denied reports it had signed the offer.

“As Nehawu, we remain a worker-led national union that takes mandates from its members,” said general secretary Zola Saphetha.

All the unions have 21 days to report to members about the matter and decide whether they accepted or rejected the offer.

On Monday, Public Service and Administration Minister Ayanda Dlodlo said the unions had agreed in principle to the offer put on the table last Friday. But on Monday, the majority of unions did not come forward to sign the deal.


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