Declaration of the SACTWU National Bargaining Conference 2011
The Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU) held its National Bargaining Conference from 4 to 6 March 2011, in Durban. The primary purpose of this Conference was to consolidate the union’s wage, employment and productivity demands for the 2011 round of wage negotiations.
Two hundred shop stewards representing over 1,500 workplaces in the clothing, textile, footwear, leather, distribution, service products and allied (CTFL) sectors participated in the Conference.
Our consolidated wage demands will now be reported back to our 99,000 members in workplaces and SACTWU branches across South Africa, before it is tabled to employers, where-after we will release details thereof to the wider public.
Conference delegates emphasised that they demand a living wage and firmly rejected any attempts to downward vary terms and conditions of employment of workers in the industry.
This year’s negotiations will cover over 120,000 workers in the CTFL and related sectors.
The Conference also considered a wide range of other challenges faced by workers in the CTFL industry and the broader economy. These include the proposed labour law amendments currently under discussion at Nedlac. In this regard, the Conference was addressed by the Minister of Labour, Nelisiwe Mildred Oliphant.
The Minister assured delegates to the Conference that section 42 of the Employment Equity Amendment Bill was not intended to negatively affect coloured or Indian workers. We welcome this assurance and call on the Department of Labour to ensure that it finds expression in the final version of the bill, prior to it being tabled in parliament.
While the Minister’s assurance gave delegates a level of comfort, we are concerned about the continued negative utterances of government officials, especially some in the Department of Labour, on this matter. We therefore urgently call on the Department to table a revised amendment bill at Nedlac to address the problems with this clause or alternatively to withdraw the bill completely. SACTWU, working in partnership with COSATU, will resist any attempts to disadvantage coloured and Indian workers or any other worker for that matter.
The Conference has further mandated the SACTWU national leadership to explore different pressure options to ensure this happens, including the possibility of rolling mass action at Department of Labour offices across South Africa.
Conference firmly rejected the ‘Halloween-like’ utterances by Solidarity with respect to the Employment Equity Amendment Bill, and cautions against the deliberate attempt to drive race division between African, coloured, Indian and white workers. Our objective is a united, non-racial South Africa, not enclaves of race exclusivity.
Delegates also called on Business to end its boycott of the labour law amendments negotiation process at Nedlac. SACTWU and its members await the outcome of COSATU’s investigation of whether or not a Section 77 LRA protest action notice should be submitted to Nedlac to force Business to the negotiation table, but committed to support mass protest action should such a notice be submitted and our demands not addressed.
The Conference also resolved that SACTWU and its members should firmly focus its action and interventions with regards to the labour law amendments on ensuring that labour brokering in all its forms are banned. In addition, the Conference called for the labour law amendment negotiations to address the ‘Fryer’s Metal effect’, which constitutes an attack on workers’ rights. The Conference further called for the criminalisation of non-compliance with the country’s labour laws.
Delegates attending this annual conference also considered the forthcoming local government elections, including the challenges faced in several regions and provinces in this regard. The Conference reiterated SACTWU’s support for COSATU’s approach to the elections.
The Minister of Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel, addressed the Conference on the New Growth Path (NGP). The Conference noted the developments in this regard, and affirmed its support for COSATU in the NGP negotiations.
The COSATU General Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, addressed the Conference on several political, economic and social challenges facing the working class, including the proposed merger between Walmart and Massmart. Delegates endorsed the call to resist this merger, citing Walmart’s poor industrial relations and sourcing practices, which will not only affect South African workers disastrously, but also the entire local and regional economy. The Conference reiterated its concern that the Competition Commission has failed to adequately address public concern issues in its recommendation to the Competition Tribunal to approve the merger unconditionally.
Conference further considered developments with regards to job losses in the industry, welcomed the firm support that government has rendered to our industry since the installation of the new Cabinet in May 2009, reflected on what competency evaluation systems to introduce for shop stewards’ education, endorsed steps to strengthen the union’s membership growth campaign, critically reflected on an overview presentation of the current state of the economy and its possible impact on our collective bargaining activities.
Conference spent considerable time in commissions, reflecting on the challenge of how to improve the services that SACTWU renders to its members. The outcome was a wide range of proposals of how to improve membership service delivery, and these will now be tabled for further refinement and an implementation strategy at the union’s next National Executive Committee (NEC), to be held later in March this year.
Conference called on all SACTWU members throughout the country to effectively prepare themselves for the upcoming round of substantive negotiations in our industry, and to be on high alert to confront employers head on, should they refuse to grant us our demands.
Issued by Andre Kriel, General Secretary, SACTWU
For further comment, kindly contact Bonita Loubser, SACTWU 2nd National Organising Secretary on 082 8007142, or Chris Gina, SACTWU 1st National Organising Secretary, on 082 9409456