ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has warned Cosatu that it will not last more than a year if internal squabbles continue to tear it apart.
Speaking at the labour federation’s bargaining conference in Boksburg today, Mantashe likened the current Cosatu leadership meetings to the ANC leadership meetings ahead of the Mangaung conference where confidential discussion always leaked because of internal divisions.
Cosatu general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi is under siege from some of his fellow unionists over the sale and purchase of Cosatu buildings, and there have been rumours that he might not see out his term.
“When you are busy talking, we don’t have to wait for the (Cosatu central executive committee), we just switch on the radio. We will know who said what to who.
“If you get into that space as Cosatu you are going to destroy it. I can tell you that in a year’s time there will be no Cosatu. There will be some remnants of it,” Mantashe said.
He also lamented what he described as the deterioration in the organising experience of union staff and organisers, which resulted in them getting involved in mud-slinging.
The bargaining conference will discuss Cosatu’s approach to collective bargaining, minimum wages and social protection for the unemployed.
It also comes at a time when the Free Market Foundation (FMF), led by its CEO Herman Mashaba, has launched a court challenge to centralise collective bargaining in the private sector, whose decisions are binding on businesses that did not participate in the process.
Vavi described the FMF challenge as a “a declaration of war against workers”.
“They are now using him (Mashaba) to launch the most brutal attack against his own brothers and sisters in race terms. The fact that if you collapse central bargaining in the country, those who are at the bottom of the societal radar, the workers and African blacks in particular, women and the youth, will be at the receiving end of this attack.
“We will meet in the field, not with the man at the front (Mashaba), but with the real owners of our wealth,” Vavi said.
Vavi also urged Cosatu unions to prioritise wages, improve conditions and protect workers against unfair dismissals as these were the main reasons members joined unions.
Perceptions of corruption in the federation also needed to be tackled.
“It is of huge concern that one-third of our members across all affiliates allege that there is corruption in their union, and 12% say they have personally seen it ...
“We must leave no stone unturned to find out the truth in every instance where an allegation is made. We cannot be calling on government to take action against corruption and then sweep it under the carpet in our own house,” he said.