COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions)

by Illinois Labor Network Against Apartheid
Forest Park, Illinois, United States
November 1989
4 pages
Type: Report
Coverage in Africa: South Africa
Coverage outside Africa: United States
Language: English
Contents: COSATU’S THREE PRINCIPLES • (1) WORKER CONTROL • (2) NON-RACIALISM • (3) ONE UNION, ONE INDUSTRY • COSATU CAMPAIGNS • (1) LIVING WAGE CAMPAIGN • (2) UNITED ACTION AGAINST APARTHEID • (3) ORGANIZING THE PUBLIC SECTOR, DOMESTIC AND FARMWORKERS • (4) THE LABOR LAW • (5) ORGANIZING THE UNEMPLOYED • COSATU UNIONS • The report says formed in December 1985, COSATU is by far the largest union federation ever in SA, representing 1.1 million workers; in a few years, COSATU has united almost every big SA union in all major industrial sectors into 14 industrial unions; COSATU's slogan is "An injury to one is an injury to all,” which sums up the real meaning of COSATU - to unite all workers against the attacks of the bosses and the government; COSATU aims to bring all workers under the banner of "One Country, One Federation." COSATU adopted the Freedom Charter as a guiding document for building a democratic society in SA. COSATU and the UDF (United Democratic Front) are the major force behind the Mass Democratic Movement and the current Defiance Campaign. The report says COSATU rejects apartheid in all its forms; to unite the working class, all workers regardless of race should be organized; COSATU has several hundred white workers as members and tens of thousands of coloured and Indian workers; the vast majority of COSATU membership are African (black) workers; COSATU is organizing many more non-African workers to join up. The report says COSATU believes that workers should be organized into national industrial unions; workers in each major industrial sector should join one national union, through which they are able to more effectively challenge the national power of the big capitalist companies which dominate the economy; all COSATU unions - except those in transport and the public sector - are fully-formed national industrial unions. The report says disciplined alliances with progressive organizations (such as UDF, SAYCO, NECC, and SACC) have resulted in mass campaigns against apartheid repression; the Defiance Campaign is the most recent. The report says as the attacks on COSATU itself increased - with many offices being bombed, thousands of members detained, COSATU media confiscated, banning of mass meetings and rallies - the HANDS OFF COSATU CAMPAIGN developed. The report says the new Labour Relations Law severely restricts the workers' legal right to strike and take solidarity action; it is aimed at smashing COSATU's Living Wage Campaign; COSATU mobilized a national campaign and massive protests against the law. COSATU will fight to the bitter end to stop the law; since the law passed, the bosses have used it to lock out and dismiss thousands of COSATU members. The report says mass unemployment has grown due to continuous dismissals and retrenchments as a result of new technology and the economic recession; unemployed workers have virtually no benefits and are often used against employed workers in strikes; the National Unemployed Workers Co-ordinating Committee of COSATU is organizing to unite the unemployed and employed workers in the struggle for jobs for all at a living wage; unemployed workers are being trained to develop necessary skills for co-operative projects. The report discusses wage increases over and above the inflation rate, a 40-hour work week, UDF (United Democratic Front), SAYCO (South African Youth Congress), NECC (National Education Crisis Committee), SACC (South African Council of Churches), public service workers, union rights, the right to strike, the chemical and petroleum industry, CAWU (Construction and Allied Workers Union), CCAWUSA (Commercial, Catering & Allied Workers Union of South Africa), CWIU (Chemical Workers Industrial Union), FAWU (Food and Allied Workers Union), NEHAWU (National Education, Health & Allied Workers Union), NUM (National Union of Mineworkers), NUMSA (National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa), POTWA (Post Office and Telecommunications Workers Association), PPWAWU (Printing, Paper, Wood and Allied Workers Union), SACTWU (South African Clothing and Textile Workers Union), SADWU (South African Domestic Workers Union), SAMWU (South Africa Municipal Workers Union), SARHWU (South Africa Railway and Harbour Workers Un ion), and TGWU (Transport and General Workers Union).
Used by permission of a former member of the Illinois Labor Network Against Apartheid.
Collection: Kathleen M. Devine papers