Cosatu bleeds

2010-05-01 12:12

Labour federation Cosatu is planning an emergency intervention at six of its 22 affiliates to stop them losing members to opposition ­unions.

The trade federation’s general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi this week said: “The Communications Workers’ Union (CWU) is one of the six unions that has been prioritised as needing serious interventions.

“Our research into the state of those unions revealed results we are not proud of.”

The majority of CWU’s losses have been at the South African Post Office (Sapo), where 4?222 members have moved to join the South African Postal Workers’ Union (Sapwu) which was formed last year in March.

Sapo currently has 12?000 unionised workers.

Sapwu, which is not aligned to a political party, is negotiating with Sapo for a recognition agreement which will give it bargaining powers.

The Sapo personnel who are breaking away from CWU follow in the footsteps of members of Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) who left the ­National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

To date Amcu, which is only nine years old, boasts 20?000 members – mainly in Mpumalanga, Limpopo and in KwaZulu-Natal.

Over the past two years it has managed to clinch recognition agreements with 50 mining and construction companies and has members in 55 more .

As Cosatu celebrated Workers Day, Vavi said the federation would seek to eliminate competition among its affiliates.

“NUM and the National Union of Metal Workers (Numsa) competed for members at Eskom.

The scope of NUM is to cover energy workers, and Numsa should have no business at Eskom,” he said.

Labour analyst Terry Bell said he wasn’t surprised that Cosatu-aligned union members were leaving the federation.

“They probably feel that Cosatu uses them as voting fodder for the ruling ANC instead of trying to help the labourers recover jobs lost ­during the recession.”

Cosatu’s membership database shows that it has lost 200?000 members between 2008 and last year.

Fedusa is the next biggest union federation with 386?000 members, followed by Consawu with 274?000. The National Council of Trade ­Unions has 110?000 members.

Wits industrial sociologist Andries Bezuidenhout differed with Bell’s analysis.

He said that some of the break­away unions did not have workers needs in mind. “Some of the formations aim to get their hands on the members’ provident funds.”

Apart from the recession which has caused union membership to shrink over the past two years, Bezuidenhout said unions faced a threat from legal and insurance schemes such as Scorpion and Legal Wise.

“The younger generation of workers and those who felt let down by their unions, tend to replace them with such schemes.”

This, however, does not mean that the worker solidarity is dead.

Bezuidenhout added that “during strikes, unions and ­individuals not unionised are most likely to support causes that would benefit them ­personally”.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.