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SACTWU bargaining conference 2013 declaration PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 03 March 2013 00:00



The COSATU-affiliated Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU) held its Annual National Bargaining Conference from 28th February to 3rd March 2013, in Cape Town.

The Conference was attended by 200 delegates and officials. Delegates were shop stewards representing 85 000 SACTWU members in the clothing, textile, leather, distribution and related sectors in all parts of South Africa.

Amongst the Conference delegates were 20 newly-elected shop stewards, ordinary workers who are now democratically elected at workplace level, as the union renews its leadership mandates through general shop steward elections at workplace, branch, regional and national level.

Over the last month and a half, SACTWU has collected approximately 16 000 living wage demands from its members in just over 1600 workplaces nationally. These demands were reconciled provincially, and were collected in metro area as well as non-metro area based workplaces. The Bargaining Conference has consolidated these living wage demands into more coherent national sectoral demands, to be backed up by an aggressive national programme of action.

The Conference noted that SACTWU will this year negotiate in 3 national bargaining councils (clothing, textiles and leather), 2 provincial bargaining councils (canvass goods in Gauteng and laundry in KwaZulu-Natal), 6 company group level negotiations (such as in Service Products/Sheltered Employment) and in just over 80 plant level wage bargains. The outcomes of our negotiations will affect about 100 000 clothing, textile, leather, footwear, distribution and related workers.

The main purpose of the Conference was to consolidate nationally the union’s workplace-collected living wage demands for the 2013 round of substantive negotiations. The Conference successfully completed this task and re-affirmed our determination:

•    to step up the fight for a living wage
•    to smash the reactionary attacks on the union’s bargaining structures, such as bargaining councils and the extension of our industry wide collective agreements
•    to strengthen centralised bargaining
•    to stamp out the scourge of non-compliance in our industry
•    to strengthen our fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic
•    to campaign against the ills of rape and other abuses of women and children
•    to step up our campaign against illegal imports
•    to strengthen the Buy Local and Proudly South African campaigns
•    to concretise our solidarity support for other COSATU affiliates’ living wage, recruitment and organising campaigns
•    to crush  bogus co-operatives, set up to deliberately circumvent the provisions of our labour laws
•    to strengthen capacity building amongst our newly elected and re-elected shop stewards, to help with better service delivery for our members

The details of our consolidated demands will now first be reported to our members, after which we will submit it to employers in our industry. It will only be released publicly thereafter.

SACTWU’s President, Themba Khumalo opened the Conference by reminding delegates that workers join unions for particularly one main reason: to improve their lives, the lives of their families and that of the communities from which they come. To realise these aims he reminded delegates that workers and their leaders need to be united and militant.

Friday, 1 March was a day of action for the Bargaining Conference with delegates staging three different protest marches in support of jobs and a living wage. The Conference marched to

•    SA Revenue Services (SARS) to protest against the continued flow of illegal imports into South Africa, which undermines local jobs and leads to de-industrialisation. We recognised the work being done by SARS to deal with this severe form of private sector corruption, but urged it to do much more, including by prosecuting high profile individuals and companies involved in under-invoicing, smuggling and transhipment

•    Capitec Bank to protest against the involvement of its chairperson, Michiel le Roux, in financing efforts to attack workers’ basic rights. This includes funding the campaign by Newcastle sweatshops to stop vulnerable workers being covered by minimum wages. We demanded that Capitec
•  publicly distances itself from this brutal attack on the living standards of clothing, textile, leather and footwear workers; and
•  issues a public statement within one week, in support of decent work in South Africa

•    the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Social Science Research (CSSR), to protest against the blatant propaganda and employer agenda-driven research it produced recently in support of the same campaign being funded by Capitec’s Chairman. SACTWU delegates expressed their outrage on this issue, and challenged the main architects of this propaganda to live off the illegally low wages which they are prescribing for Newcastle workers. In this regard, we handed them R278 in cash, which is the typical take-home wage which many Newcastle qualified machinists’ earn for a 45 hour week. This is lower than the current prescribed minimum wage for farm and domestic workers. 

The Conference received a report from SACTWU’s Worker Health Programme, which outlined its hugely successful efforts in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS through education, voluntary, testing and counselling and voluntary male medical circumcision (MMC). The Conference noted that SACTWU is now the leading MMC NGO provider with close to 60 000 circumcisions performed to date. These circumcisions have been performed over a short period, since inception of this programme in June 2011.

The Conference expressed its gross disgust with South Africa’s rape epidemic. It resolved to launch a campaign at workplace level where members will pledge to do all in their power to rid South Africa of this evil.

The Conference was addressed by Ebrahim Patel, Minister of Economic Development, on progress with the implementation of the New Growth Path (NGP). The Conference warmly welcomed the update and the significant implementation progress that has been made with this flagship economic development policy.

Thembinkosi Mkalipi, the Chief Director: Labour Relations in the Department of Labour, addressed the Conference on the labour law amendments currently on the parliamentary roll, and general challenges faced by the labour relations system. The Conference reaffirmed its support for a total ban on labour brokers and its fight against those elements that are hell-bent on destroying bargaining councils, limiting the Minister of Labour’s right to extend bargaining council agreements to non-parties, undermining decent work and legitimising sweatshops.

The Conference was also addressed by Zwelinzima Vavi, COSATU General Secretary, on the challenges facing the working class, the fight for a living wage and the need to improve servicing of members and recruitment of new members. The Conference reaffirmed its support for the COSATU General Secretary, its respect for the true decisions of the COSATU Central Executive Committee, and dismissed the smear campaign being waged to silence his impassioned public defence of the working class, by faceless sources. The Conference expressed its deep concern at the widespread misreporting, based on invisible sources, of the decisions of the recently held COSATU Central Executive Committee (CEC).

The Conference received detailed reports by its research wing on the state of the economy and that of the clothing, textile, footwear and leather industry and the economic bargaining indicators for this year. Conference appreciatively noted the following statement contained in President Zuma’s recent State of the Nation (SONA) address to parliament:

“The clothing, textiles and footwear industry has stabilised after 15 years of steadily falling employment. A clothing support scheme provides broad financial support, saving a number of factories and jobs”

Conference noted that this accords with SACTWU’s own independent concrete experience, especially the continued slowdown in the rate of job losses in the industry.

Conference further noted the weaker rand and welcomed the benefit it provides to the local industry and other parts of the productive economy of South Africa.

The Conference also convened five specialists’ Commissions on:
•    concrete campaign support for the Living Wage Campaign,
•    current political challenges and its impact on our membership base,
•    measures to combat bogus co-operatives,
•    preparation for the COSATU Organising, Collective Bargaining & Minimum Wage Conference scheduled for mid-March this year, and
•    concrete capacity building measures for newly elected and re-elected shop stewards.

The direction received from Conference delegates will enrich the union’s positions taken with regards to these matters in the coming year.  It supplements the concrete outcomes of last year’s Conference Specialist’s Commissions on jobs, improvements in membership servicing, organisational renewal, and our membership growth campaign.

Policy proposals emanating from the Conference will now be submitted to the union’s National Executive Committee meeting for constitutional structural consideration, amendment and endorsement.

Our 2013 wage negotiations kick off in mid-March this year.

Issued by

Andre Kriel
General Secretary

For comment contact SACTWU’s 1st National Organising Secretary Chris Gina on cell numbers 0829409456/0741932258, or 2nd National Organising Secretary Bonita Loubser on cell number 082 8007142.