Cosatu offers no solutions

2011-07-02 09:23

Cosatu and its affiliate, the South African Catering, Commerical and Allied Workers’ Union (Saccawu), have been spitting fire recently.

At its ­national conference this week Cosatu warned that workers would intensify their fight against low wages and warned employers to ­prepare for mass action.

At the same time, Saccawu has lodged an appeal against the Competition Tribunal’s decision to conditionally approve the Massmart­Walmart deal.

But we all know how uninspiring Cosatu’s national conferences are. I suspect the trade union federation could not offer concrete ideas on how to tackle pressing issues such as the New Growth Path, high unemployment, land reform and nationalisation of key sectors of the economy simply because it does not have ­coherent plans.

Hence it chose to defer these issues to August and instead threatened mass action against all and sundry.

Lest Zwelinzima Vavi and Cosatu forget, the economic path agreed to at Codesa was premised on the capitalist system, and, in a capitalist state, government has no control over markets and private property rights.

It therefore follows that in this laissez- faire economic system there will ­always be competition for limited resources between labour and capital.

During the last 17 years the labour movement has made significant gains over employers and now it wishes to exert its hegemony.

The unintended consequence of this is that it is now on a mission to stifle entrepreneurship and economic growth.

Over the years Cosatu has only ever criticised without advancing alternatives. It complains about “low wages” and yet says nothing about low ­labour productivity.

Just visit a supermarket and see how disinterested most workers seem to be in their work and in ­customer service.

It is little wonder that South Africa has slid from 44 in 2008 to its current 58 out of 59 countries in the global competitiveness rankings.

And while Saccawu has the right to ­appeal the Massmart-Walmart decision, it should not allow itself to ­become a pawn in a global proxy war to the detriment of our labour and economic sovereignty.

If, as is universally accepted, easing restrictive labour legislation, investing heavily in skills development, opening doors to foreign skilled ­labour and promoting the small and medium business sector are some of the solutions to South Africa’s unemployment difficulties, then Walmart’s entry into the country provides an ­opportunity to reduce costs, drive productivity and revive our lacklustre economic performance.

Before it gratuitously criticises ­others could the real Cosatu please lift its petticoat?

»  Khaas is founder president of the SA SMME Forum, a public benefit body that advanced the interests of small business at the Massmart­Walmart Competition Tribunal hearing.

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