The Congress of South Africa Trade Union (COSATU) has been dominating the headlines week.
However, this is not completely unusual.
COSATU seems completely comfortable being the subject of many headlines and news conversation, especially when they feel they are instituting change.
COSATU is a South African Trade Union federation.
The current COSATU president is Sidumo Dlamini.
There are three main trade union federations in South Africa. COSATU is currently the largest of the three.
COSATU was founded in 1985. With 21 affiliated trade unions, it is currently responsible for 1.8million works.
A trade union is an association of workers to unite to achieve shared interests and common goals.
These goals vary across the different unions but some are the same regardless. They include maintaining the integrity of the trade, fair compensation, instituting necessary safety standards, health benefits and insurance, better working conditions and fair retirement packages.
Trade unions in South Africa have a rather loaded history dating back to the 1880s.
The racial disparity that existed in the South Africa at the time could also be seen among the trade unions as well. Majority of the unions existed in the beginning for the white workers.
However, through tim, especially between 1948 and 1991, the trade unions evolved into a powerful force that played important roles in the political and economic resistance of apartheid.
They grew to one of the pillars that instituted a democratic South African government.
This is why trade unions, and COSATU by extension, are still influential forces in the country.
So influential in fact that COSATU is part of a three way alliance with South Africa’s African National Congress and South African Communist Party – the Tripartite Alliance.
Many have criticized COSATU participation in the alliance as the union has been vocal about their criticism of ANC’s policies.
Most notably was when Zwelinzima Vavi, the former secretary general of COSATU referred to the current government as a ‘predator society’.
Others find the alliance curious as trade unions usually seek independence from political parties not mergers with them.
However, it has been rationalized that this union gives the organization the political acclivity to make a the difference they hope to see in South Africa
Foundations for COSATU were set at the University of Natal when 33 unions met on the 30th of November, 1985 to discuss forming a federation of trade unions.
COSATU was formally founded on the first of December in 1985. The organizations first president was Elijah Barayi. The first general secretary was Jay Naidoo.
The next four years were characterized by peace talks between competing unions in order to direct their redirect their efforts at reducing the manifestation of apartheid in the work place.
Some of the aims of the federation listed during the first meeting include:
• The establishment of one union in each of the industries in the country
• To reduce the exploitation of female workers
• The right to picket and strike
• To be the determinant of national minimum wage
• To call for pressure from the international community to aid in the fight against apartheid
Below are some of the unions affiliated with COSATU listed in alphabetical order:
• Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union (CEPPWAWU)
• Creative Workers Union of South Africa (CWUSA)
• National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU)
• National Union of Mineworkers (NUM)
• Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU)
• South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU)
• Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (SACTWU)
• South African Democratic Nurses’ Union (SADNU)
• South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU)
• South African Medical Association (SAMA)
• South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU)
• SASBO – The Finance Union
• South African Security Forces Union (SASFU)
• South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU)
Below is a list of key people in the COSATU administration
• President: Sdumo Dlamini
• First Deputy-President: Tyotyo James
• Second Deputy-President: Zingiswa Losi
• Secretary General: Bheki Ntshalintshali
• Deputy General Secretary: Solly Phetoe
• Treasurer: Freda Oosthuysen
Regional secretaries for the different provinces are:
• Gauteng: Dumisani Dakile
• KwaZulu-Natal: Edwin Mkhize
• Northern Cape: Anele Gxoyiya
• Eastern Cape: Macvicar
• Limpopo: Gerald Twala
• North West: Solly Phetoe
• Mpumalanga: Fidel Mlombo
• Free State: Monyatso Mahlatsi
• Western Cape: Tony Ehrenreich