NUMSA commemorates the 100 year anniversary of the Russian Revolution

DGS Input to the Numsa Pre-National Bargaining Conference

28 November 2012, Posted in Campaigns

28 NOVEMBER 2012

Purpose and objectives of the pre-bargaining conference:

1. To assess the state of implementation of the collective bargaining agreements scheduled to be renegotiated in 2013.

2. To assess and analyse bargaining trends and settlements in our economy.

3. To assess the economic position of the sectors and national house agreement companies scheduled to renegotiate collective bargaining agreements, and to compare with international trends.

4. To assess the state of our economy, its global position and the economic policy environment, both macro and micro economic policies including key economic indicators (e.g. inequality, poverty, quantity and quality of employment and unemployment, exchange and interest rates, wage and profit levels, inflation, etc.).

5. To assess the state (e.g. strengths and weaknesses) of the union in the sectors and national house agreement companies scheduled to renegotiate collective bargaining agreements.

6. To reflect on our approaches to collective bargaining as guided by the Organising, Campaigning and Collective Bargaining (OCCB) Strategy, adopted by the 9th Numsa National Congress, Durban, June 2012.

In relation to all of the above, associated lessons as well as other important considerations the pre-bargaining conference is charged with the task of guiding the process of formulating and crafting demands.

In our task to prepare for solid collective bargaining in 2013, Numsa expect that;

(a) All Numsa regions, locals and shop steward committees must put our ear to the ground to hear what metalworkers are saying about their needs in respect of wage increases and improvement in conditions of employment and benefits.

This collection of demands from metalworker must start when we commence work in January 2013.

(b) By the fourth week of March 2013 the process must be concluded at the regional level with all regions having held their regional bargaining policy workshops and submitting demands to the Numsa Head Office for consolidation.

(c) In the second week of April 2013 the union will convene a National Bargaining Conference, to finalise the demands and tactical considerations.

This conference shall therefore have the responsibility to refine this process so that the Union is on top of taking our membership along in the mandating processes. In other words, we must emerge here with a clear collective bargaining program and campaigns diary for 2013.

The Context within which this Pre-NBC is taking place:

It is common knowledge that COSATU has spearheaded the characterisation of a triple crisis in South Africa of unemployment, poverty and ineqaulity that has come to grip and detain the South African working class.

Numsa’s 9th National Congress has come to define this triple crisis, which has accompanied us prior and post the 1994 democratic breakthrough, as reason enough to believe that the National Democratic Revolution is off track.

At the same Numsa National Congress the ANC President also decried the triple crises as a serious challenge in our country and thus defined the NDR as at a crossroads.

In addressing the triple crises of unemployment, poverty and inequality we have witnessed the following responses in our movement;

• The 2012 ANC National Policy Conference called for a radical second phase in the NDR to transform the South African economy.

• The ANCYL has adopted a position wherein it calls for Economic Freedom in our life time.

• COSATU has called for a Lula moment to make the next decade to benefit the working class and the poor in economic terms

• NUMSA calls for our Freedom Charter Moment NOW to ensure that the wealth of country is returned to the people as a whole.

• The SACP resolved that we should build working class power in all key sites of power to build and execute a socialist oriented National Democratic Revolution.

It is important that we pause for a minute to reflect on the socio economic indicators to highlight the triple crises of unemployment, poverty and unemployment;

On Unemployment:

In 2007 South Africa’s expanded unemployment rate was 36% and by 2012, it stood at 37%. Among Africans, the expanded unemployment was about 40% in 2008; this figure had risen to about 46% by 2012.

In contrast the unemployment rate for white people, who have minimal discouragement to begin with, was 5% in 2008 and by 2012 this had increased to 8%. In the labour force Africans are 6 times more than whites, but they are more than 80 times the number of whites among the unemployed, if we consider the expanded unemployment.

From the standpoint of the restricted definition, Africans are 7 times more than whites in the labour force, but they are 50 times more than whites among the unemployed.

Between the fourth quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2012, the proportion of the unemployed that have been without work for more than a year rose from 61% to 68% of the unemployed, while discouraged work-seekers, who are now 2.3 million, increased by 100% over the same period.

The vast majority of the unemployed, an estimated 72%, are young people between 15—36 years of age.

On average, 400 000 young people do not proceed with their studies after writing matriculation exams every year.

This pool of young people joins the unemployed and swells the ranks of structural unemployment, which takes the form of discouraged work-seekers.

The socio economic report to the Cosatu 11th National Congress made the following profound statement in relation to our unemployment crises;

"The second phase of the NDR cannot be founded on the destruction of working class power; it must be led by the working class.

The bourgeoisie has failed to provide solutions to our problems, as it normally would fail.

Therefore in order to address unemployment, the second phase of the NDR must be characterised by measures to achieve broad-based industrialisation, decisive state intervention to address inequalities and expand infrastructure and quality basic service provision (education, health, housing etc.) and a change in patterns of ownership and control of the economy, as identified by the Freedom Charter, so that the resources that are embedded within the monopolies such as the mines, SASOL, Arcelor-Mittal, etc. are directed by the state to build domestic industries which would create real, productive jobs and to train workers and young people in general to meaningfully participate in the social, political and economic development of our country.

The only shortest route to broad-based development available now is the speedy implementation of the Freedom Charter."

On Poverty:

The Cosatu 11th Cosatu National Congress Socio Economic report makes the following point about the poverty situation in our country;

"The Human Development Report (2010) states that 44% of workers in South Africa live on less than R10 a day, which is almost the same as the daily allowance on the child support grant. But this amount can barely pay for a loaf of brown bread a day, which cost R7.50 in 2010.

In short 44% of workers in South Africa are working for a loaf of bread on a daily basis. South Africa’s economy is intrinsically a low-wage colonial economy. Despite having created an estimated 1.9 million jobs between 2002—2007, these jobs seem to have increased the levels of poverty rather than decreasing them.

A measure that assumes individuals need R322 a month to survive show that individual poverty has declined from 52.5% to 49% in 2009."

The Freedom Charter is clear that in a democratic South Africa, no one shall go hungry. Almost 20 years into democracy, about 5.3 million South Africans suffer from hunger.

The Freedom Charter says food shall be plentiful. However, some 9.2 million South Africans have inadequate food on a daily basis.

The difficulty in dealing decisively with these obvious aspects of poverty lies in the fact that the underlying colonial and capitalist power relations in the economy have not been transformed.

As the RDP stated: “Poverty is the single greatest burden of South Africa's people, and is the direct result of the apartheid system and the grossly skewed nature of business and industrial development which accompanied it”.

Business is still grossly skewed, industrial development has regressed and not progressed and the overall patterns of apartheid underdevelopment remain entrenched. It is no wonder that there is little progress in realising the demands of the Freedom Charter."

On Inequality:

Qouting again from Socio economic report submitted to Cosatu 11th National Congress;

"Recent estimates suggest that the top 5% earners take 30 times what the bottom 5% earners take7. White people earn on average 4 times what Africans earn, but estimates from the Community Survey (2007) say that whites earn 8 times what Africans earn, where it is estimated that an African male earns an average of R2 400 whilst a white male earns R19 000.

This would mean that at the least, given an 8-hr working day, whites earn in 1 hour what Africans earn in a day. An estimated 81% of Africans earns less than R6 000 whilst 56% of whites earns more than R6 000.

The Earnings Survey estimates that women earn 77% of what men earn, although the Community Survey (2007) estimates that males earn twice what women earn. Income inequalities have also increased within racial groups and most of the increase has been among Coloured people whilst the smallest increase in income inequality has been among Africans."

It is within this context that see how the rate of economic exploitation has deepened in the post-apartheid South Africa.This is partly reflected in the widening of inequality, the rise of profit and a fall or stagnation in worker’s share of national income. The following are a part of the driving factors:

a) The emergence and rise of labour brokers and temporary employment including casualisation. Associated with this.

b) There have been aggressive and gradual destruction of permanent employment, a fall in wages, erosion of benefits and a rise in precarious and atypical forms of employment, all buttressed by increasing insecurity to workers, their families and communities.

c) Precarious and atypical forms of employment and the deepening rate of exploitation are, objectively, part and parcel of the material basis of the many working class struggles that our economy and many others around the world have seen recently in the midst of the persisting global capitalist crisis.

This does not mean that subjective factors do not exist. On the contrary, subjective factors do exist.

Having stated the above reality, as experienced by the working class and the poor in our country, we cannot be amazed or surprised but what happened in Marikana and De Doorns. Mineworkers, farmworkers and the many service delivery protests have proven for all to see that our National Democratic Revolution is off track.

Brief reflections of the August 2012 Numsa Central Committee’s analyses of Marikana:

It is critical that we examine from a class perspective what happened in Marikana. We think that the Numsa Central Committee of August 2012 attempted to provide such a class analyses. The following is extracts from the CC’s perspective of Marikana;

1. The ugly reality of capitalist barbarity, combined with our untransformed colonial economy and society, has sharply worsened the conditions of the working class and the poor, as evidenced by daily violent service delivery protests in our communities, and growing dissenting voices against the system, demanding housing, water, food, decent jobs and free education for the working class and the poor.

This is the global and national context which explains the Marikana massacre – a worsening global and local capitalist economy which increasingly will resort to bloody violence to “discipline” the working class in order to defend its falling profits.

2. The CC called on the working class and poor not to be fooled and blinded by anyone, but to understand that in a capitalist state or class divided country like South Africa, the state will always act in the interests of the dominant class: the class that owns, controls and commands the economy, political and social life. This is, after all, the real reason for the existence of any state!

3. No one can deny the most obvious fact: despite all the well intentioned government reforms to mining and mining rights, the Black working class on the mines are the most exploited, earn very little and live in squalor, while the mining bosses, both local and international, are reaping billions of dollars from our minerals.

Despite the reduced demand for platinum in Western Europe and the US, we know that the three platinum companies Lonmin, Implats and Anglo Platinum in the last five years have registered operating profits of more than R160 billion.

While manufacturing industry has had to settle for an average profit margin of 8%, the mining companies have averaged 29%. In fact, in the boom years of 2006 to 2008, they averaged 41%.

Their R160 billion profits would have built more than 3 million RDP houses. Instead they leave their employees to an impoverished existence in shacks and then express shock and horror when those workers decide they have had enough and refuse to work until they receive a slightly less meagre salary. The mining bosses are not fit to control the mineral wealth of our country.

4. NUMSA is convinced that unless that mineral wealth of our country is returned to the people as a whole, mining will continue to be characterised by violence against the working class either, through dangerous working conditions or from the bullets of the police in defence of the profits of the mining bosses.

5. An important lesson from the Marikana massacre for the working class is that unity of the organised working class is sacrosanct. Further, we all must do whatever it takes to ensure that we constantly promote that unity.

In our view the Numsa August 2012 Central Committee's class analyses of the Marikana Massacre has proven to be a correct assessment of the dominance of the colonial legacy that we have inherited in 1994 and which continued post the 1994 democratic breakthrough particularly by the 1996 class project.

The farm workers strike has caught all and sundry by surprise BUT our CC's analyses indicated clearly that unless we change the structure of the South African economy through redistribution and sharing of the country's wealth to the people as a whole, we are not just sitting on a ticking time bomb but shall find our hands tied against an angry and key constituency of the African National Congress, i.e. the working class and the poor.

If we are to reverse the conditions of the working class in terms of the deepening levels of poverty, unemployment and inequalities, then we require a Freedom Charter Moment as referred to by Numsa and referred to as a Lula Moment by Cosatu and referred to as a Second Phase of the NDR.

This requires decisive leadership beyond the Mangaung ANC National Conference to the point as characterized by M.N Roy, an Indian Revolutionary who said in November 1922:

“Our labourers and peasants are not special beings; by “waking up the man in them”, they will behave exactly like their class in every other land, under the stimulation of capitalist exploitation. What do you want to wake them up for? In order to travel further and faster on the road of progress.

But how can they progress unless their grave social and economic disabilities are removed? And how is it possible to remove the economic disabilities without injuring the vested interests that profit thereby? In other words, if you sincerely desire the progress of the toiling masses, you cannot avoid a struggle with those who live by exploiting the labour of these toilers.

This is the crux of the whole problem we have to solve. There is no way out of the triangular fight which is going on now, all the time. By shutting our eyes, we cannot make it non-existent."

Numsa has a Central Committee resolution which directs us to persuade the Federation to embark on an aggressive mobilisation of the working class and therefore Numsa's push in the Cosatu Special CEC for a S77 dispute so that we may demand the following changes in accordance with the Freedom Charter;

1. Nationalisation

2. A redistributive Macro-economic policy

3. Employment creation for decent jobs

4. Land and agrarian reform

5. A progressive labour market

6. Free education

7. Universal health care

These demands requires an appetite to engage in working class struggle including marching to the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) to demand nationalization of the Reserve Bank, marching to National Treasury to demand fiscal, monetary, industrial and trade reforms to drive industrialization, etc.

The need to pay attention to on-going organisational renewal:

It is important that we therefore make use of the pre-bargaining conference to assess the perception that members have about the union, the contributing factors behind those perceptions, and provide direction on what is to be done to build a union strong and improve the quality of service to members.

This is exactly what the National Office Bearers together with the OCCB department have been engaged in over the last few weeks in meeting regional and local organisers.

We must carry the work further, bearing in mind that the basis of collective bargaining is trade union organisation, the basis of trade union organisation is membership, and the strength of membership lies in numbers first and foremost.

Therefore if we have a weak organisation desired results from collective bargaining will be inconceivable, the rest will be to raise the hopes and interests of members unreasonably.

It is with this in mind that the August 2012 Numsa ventral Committee called upon our Union at all levels to observe the following in our day to day work;

1. Don’t lose contact with members

2. Be careful about preferring one section of members over another

3. Our involvement must be about members first and growing the organisation

4. All office bearers, shopstewards and officials must get out of our comfort zones

5. In small establishments Numsa members must feel that Numsa is their shield and their spear

6. We must go back to the shopfloor, we must take up bread and butter issues that affect workers

7. We must prepare for an assault on trade unions by the bosses and the state in order to reduce union power.

8. Our unity in the face of this kind of dynamic, is even more important than ever with specific reference to the fact that we need to:

– Be diverse and united and grow OR
– Be intolerant and divided and shrink

The six months from January to June 2013 must be characterised therefore not only by collective bargaining, but also by organising and campaigning to build the union and increase its strength.

Recruitment will definitely be one of the essential programs and must find profound expression on the ground. Linked with this, in line with our OCCB strategy we must take heed of the fact that the process and act of collective bargaining do not start when negotiations open.

The process and act of collective bargaining are always underway in various stages of preparation and engagement in the same way as Antonio Gramsci talks about a war of manoeuvre and a war of position.

The former essentially involves, but not exclusively, a frontal attack. The latter involves, and also not exclusively, preparation minutely and technically for a war not only to build counter-hegemony to hegemony, but also to prepare for a victory in war during peace times.

It is in this context that the union will be forging ahead with the establishment of Research and Development Groups (RDGs) in each sector that we organise for purposes of organising, campaigning and collective bargaining. We will be starting with the sectors that are scheduled for negotiations in 2013.

In conclusion:

It is critical that we take stock of our weaknesses, shortcomings and challenges if we are to be the shield and spear of metalworkers.

We wish you a successful and productive pre-NBC.

Prepared by:

Karl Cloete
Deputy General Secretary
Numsa Head Office – Johannesburg