South African Federation of Trade Unions [SAFTU] Launch

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Opening address by Raymond Mnguni, Chairperson of the Steering Committee for the new trade union federation, 21 April 2017, Boksburg Comrade Chairperson, delegates, visitors and friends On behalf of the Steering Committee I welcome you all to this historic gathering.

It is a great honour and privilege to be asked to deliver the opening address of such a momentous event. The long wait is over. The new dawn has broken. A milestone has been reached in the history of the South African trade union movement.

We are here to build a new, vibrant, independent, democratic and militant workers’ federation. We are here to lead the struggle against exploitation, mass unemployment, poverty, inequality and corruption. We are here to forge ahead in the struggle for the total liberation of the working class from the chains of its capitalist oppressors.

As the Steering Committee report documents in great detail, this congress could not come at a more crucial time. Workers face the most serious crises since the end of apartheid. Unemployment is at one of the highest levels in the world, and now thousands more jobs are now under threat – in Eskom and related transport services, the chicken industry, cold drinks manufacturing and the media.

More and more of the jobs that remain are insecure and low-paid, as formerly permanent jobs are lost through outsourcing, casualisation and exploitation by labour brokers.

An army of vulnerable and marginalized workers is growing fast. Employers and the government are striving to sabotage collective bargaining and drive down wages to the lowest level which desperate workers will be prepared to accept. They are moving through Nedlac to restrict our basic, constitutional right to strike.

Yet just when there is a greater need than ever a strong, militant trade union movement, the existing ones are fragmented and weak. According to the Department of Labour, in February 2016, there were 182 unions registered in our country, with another 400 unions were waiting to be registered.

There are also thousands of workers in unions which are letting them down, workers who are demoralised by their leaders’ inactivity and opportunism, especially those in COSATU, who are embroiled in factional battles within the ANC and government and have failed to wage any fightback against their allies’ pro-capitalist and anti-worker policies.

Worst of all, more than three quarters of workers are not organised in any union at all, most of them in the most vulnerable sectors – part-time or casual workers who have no permanent employer of workplace, farm and domestic workers, the very workers in the greatest need of a strong trade union.

That is why one of our main tasks over these three days is target these vulnerable workers, to revive their hopes and give them a route out of their misery. We must recognise the changing nature of the labour force, move beyond traditional areas of scope and recruit these vulnerable, unorganised workers.

As the Steering Committee report says, “We must rise above the petty squabbles that often characterise relations between unions and federations. Our country, our continent, and indeed the workers of the world, are going to be faced with monumental challenges over the next period. We have to be a beacon that attracts all workers, regardless of their union traditions, back to the front line of the class struggle.”

All these, and many other challenges will be discussed in much greater detail in the discussion around the Steering Committee Report later today. But my mandate is to give a brief summary of the history of the activities of the Steering Committee and how we have arrived at this historic congress today.

In 2014 members of the COSATU Central Executive Committee voted to expel 340,000 members of NUMSA, and in 2015 to dismiss its General Secretary, Comrade Vavi. A group of COSATU affiliates which opposed these decisions, later to be known as the “9 plus unions”, worked together to try to restore democracy, accountability, worker control and political independence to COSATU.

Meanwhile hundreds more members and officials were expelled from individual COSATU affiliates, many of them for exposing corruption and the embezzlement of union funds, others for their opposition to the COSATU leaders’ policy of propping up a dying and irrelevant Alliance, and an ANC and SACP that had abandoned their historical mission.

It became clear, particularly after the two disastrous COSATU Congresses in 2015, where FAWU and other members of the 9-plus fought bravely to turn the tide, that the leadership clique of COSATU would never accede to demands for worker unity, democracy and independence. They were never going to be the driving force for workers’ unity and or fulfill the historic call for “One Country, One Federation”.

A new force for workers’ unity started to emerge. Discussions began between the Presidents of NACTU, FEDUSA and the former General Secretary of COSATU, who mutually agreed to convene a meeting of all unions that endorsed certain principles, including that the unions must be independent from employers and political parties, worker-controlled and democratic.

A historic meeting on 7 September 2015, attended by 26 unions, agreed to search for unity on the basis of trade union independence and democracy. This meeting laid the basis for working towards a Workers’ Summit and the eventual formation of a New Trade Union Federation.

A Steering Committee was elected, comprising leaders of all participating trade unions.

Unfortunately almost immediately after the establishment of the Steering Committee, FEDUSA backed away, without ever making a written commitment to the New Federation and its principles.

NACTU remained in the Steering Committee and participated, together with some of its affiliates (including AMCU) in the magnificent Workers Summit, which took place 30 April 2016, attended by 1500 trade union representatives, representing 52 unions attended together with 22 civil society organisations as observers.

NACTU also participated actively in the May Day Rally convened by the Steering Committee the next day, 1 May 2016. However, it then also retreated, as did Solidarity, who enthusiastically attended the Workers Summit and endorsed its final declaration, but then retreated, apparently back into the Afrikaner Laager coordinated by Afriforum.

The Workers Summit adopted a declaration called for concrete steps to be taken to launch a new, militant independent trade union federation and agreed to adopt the following founding principles, which of course you, at this launching congress, may endorse, amend and or reject.

1. Independence: Unions must be independent from employers (in the private and public sector) and from political parties. This does not mean that unions are apolitical.

2. Worker control and democracy: Unions must be worker-controlled and practise democracy, accountability, transparency and be tolerant. Within the federation affiliates must have autonomy but not independence, but differences of opinion must be tolerated.

3. Non-racialism and non-sexism: Unions must fight for the maximum unity of all workers and reject all divisive and negative sentiment such as xenophobia etc.

4. Financial self-sufficiency, accountability, and opposition, in word and deed, to business unionism, corruption, fraud and maladministration within its own ranks and in society as a whole.

5. Anti-imperialist and Internationalist: Unions must place a high priority on international solidarity.

6. Socialist orientation: Unions must be ready to engage in the transformation of our societies to counter capitalist exploitation, inequalities and poverty.

7. Militancy in fighting for the working class and the poor: Unions must be ready to actively campaign for change, and made links with all of the oppressed South Africans.

8. Effective organisation and representation: Unions must organise in the most effective manner to represent workers and serve their interests.

9. Solidarity: with all workers in struggle for better wages and conditions or to save jobs

10. Support for workers exposing corruption, e.g. Prasa and Midrand municipality

To prepare for this congress of the New Federation, the Steering Committee on 7 March 2017 applied for registration with the Department of Labour, under the name of the South African Federation of Trade Unions.

All documents, including membership affiliation, were found to be in order, and the Registrar wrote to the Convenor of the Steering Committee on 23 March 2017 to state that the registration application was successful and the registration was gazetted on 31 March 2017. Should the congress decide to adopt a name other than SAFTU, the name change will be submitted to the Registrar.

We still face immense challenges, which the new leadership will have to confront urgently, because time is not on our side. We have to confront the quadruple challenge of unemployment, poverty, inequality and corruption and revive the trade union movement.

If workers cannot turn the tide and fight back against their appalling conditions of life, we shall slide into a new age of barbarism, and even worse exploitation of the working class and the poor.

I wish you all a highly successful congress. It must be the starting moment of a new era of progress towards the realisation of the ideals of the Freedom Charter and the emancipation of the working class and the whole of humanity. 

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73 comments on “South African Federation of Trade Unions [SAFTU] Launch
  1. T.s moloi says:

    We hope and trust this newly form federation will serve its best for the south african worker’s more especially the poor public servants
    Viva saftu viva

  2. Thobela says:

    hei guys we hope this is the beginning of UNION that is going to put the people before political parties and leaders, the messes are being exploited, slavery under the ANC gorvenment and COSATU, how can i get hold of you and join the UNION, I think you will help what is killing us as employees in Cptwn.

  3. samuel says:

    The best thing for south African workers is to know the one and the only federation which was launched in 1985 and fought for the forty hour a week,drafted a workers charter,recognition of unions,living wage,minimum wage,the main issue now is to defend our gains by participating in your unions.before you join a federation you must first join a union.the union does not fight for workers rights but workers fight for their right collectively. Cosatu is the one and the only south Africas biggest federations which liberated south African workers from peanuts wages. ONE COUNTRY ONE FEDERATION

    • Ray says:

      But reversed all that it achieved from 1994 as all its leaders were capitalists and sold out the workers all now are exploited as all are on ceiling for 20years and Vavi Also the best culprit ,really you need a lot of work shop my friend workers and govt are opponents as the govt always exploits workers like today wake up

  4. Oscar says:

    Hope the federation will advance the needs and wishes of workers. conduct its business in a fair manner. handle the differences of affiliate unions. increase membership, Manage the its affairs according to principle laid down by the Department of labour and the constitution.

    • Ray says:

      I hope from the start they must know we are their bosses not them should take orders from the workers not for their selfishness like Cosatu right now from 1994 we were sold by cosatu

  5. Ezekiel says:

    Now our focus is to heed the call of the working class and Cde Thobela Give your contact details so we can keep in touch, 079 524 0477. As for Samuel you are trapped at the wrong place as i refer you as an unorganized. Just give me a call and i will be in touch with to recruit you to your right union you can peace fully belong to.

  6. Jethro says:

    I strongly feel that this new federation will liberate us from cosatu oppression…those who still benefit from cosatu will continue to defend it. we being confronted by labour brokering in our departments unions are folding hands. halala new federation halala

  7. Chris says:

    If you keep quite you’ll be asked why and if you tend to disagree you are labeled as an enemy.
    COSATU has lost morals and ethical codes of its own workers’. I have fought racism in this country and I am still fighting it but one thing I cannot tolerate is fighting tribalism, I hate it.

    Tribalism is alive in the ANC and COSATU is quite about it cause the majority of CEC comes from KZN. Even Mr. Mantashe is ambiguous he does not know what he must say nor do, he has lost his own direction of the workers’ who made him be where he is.

    SAFTU I personally warmly welcome you, comrades. let the voice of the workers’ be heard and it SAFTU can stand in for elections in 2019 I will support you, AMANDLA!!!

  8. Vipe K says:

    Will like to know in this new federation, there is any room for labour broker workers? None think about us. we are working at Massdiscounters under a labour broker called Ziphi Nkomo, the way they treat us, we prefer may be the time of slave trade at the market of Tipopo, every week there is paid query, you try to query you are black listed. Now there is a new labour law they are calling “Extra time”(overtime),we work more than 45 hours they paid normal; we work sometime more than 65 hours/week they paid it normal. Please we need your assistance. Please anonymous

  9. Khaukanani says:

    It’s interesting news for the mass of workers in South Africa.My primary concern is related to the workers in the security industry. Security guards etc. The industry is the worst exploiting sector in the country.I wish the new union could try to deal with the unchanging status there.

  10. desmond says:

    where can I find an application form please

  11. Ernest Marite says:

    I’m awaiting good thing to happen in favour of communityof workers at large, thatll be ochestrated by SAFTU.

  12. Skhumbuzo Nyoni says:

    SAFTU I personally warmly welcome you, comrades. let the voice of the workers’ be heard and if SAFTU can offer supporters and staff benefits, so that e can have more members at large. AMANDLA!!!

  13. Skhumbuzo Nyoni says:

    SAFTU I personally warmly support and welcome you on the Unions Playing field, comrades. let the voice of the workers’ be heard and if SAFTU can offer supporters and staff benefits, so that we can have more members at large. AMANDLA!!!

  14. teleko says:

    let me give samual a botherly free advice; COSATU and its affiliated unions are not working for workers but for its leaders to gain ministerial positions and others in the so-called ruling party (ANC). SAFTU is the only federation which is for workers not for employers. Workers will demand a two digit percentage increment but the COSATU affiliate will negotiate of an insult of 5-6%.

    2. Which trade unions are affiliated to SAFTU I congratulate them.

    VIVA SAFTU VIVA

  15. VIVA SAFTU VIVA ASIJIKI!!!!

  16. Nangamso juliwe says:

    How can I contact this federation?

  17. linda nsele says:

    Comrades please i am desperately looking for the union’s office numbers and the address. please help i have been searching for it but cannot find any information even on the internet i cant find it

  18. charles daniels says:

    contact details

  19. xolisile B. Fina says:

    WHO CAN I SEND MY IDEAS TO AT SAFTU REGARDING THE ORGANISING AND SKILLS DEVELOPMENT OF THE UNEMPLOYED BY SAFTU AND ITS MEMBER UNIONS?

  20. Refiloe says:

    dear SAFTU comrades

    im from Johannesburg .where are your offices based around JHB and please provide me with your contact details.

    Refiloe

  21. Tshavheni says:

    Which union under SAFTU a workers can join (retail_buildersz )

  22. molemo says:

    How is saftu going to deal with labour brokers?

  23. Bonga says:

    Please ineed your help how can i meet you im at Jhb plz or call me my number iz 078 8878464

  24. M.r.Minniie says:

    Hi good day I need help in was charged for misconduct hearing went for a couple of days while the first witness was busy we took a brake he came to us and said we must plaed guilty ok we done that for a lighter sentence 1month final written warning the following day dismissal my union make a lot of mistakes we first went to labourcourt (Dismissed leak of jurisdiction) Uply bargening council was dismissed no concrete evidence for lateness (Condonation) please help

  25. nonhlanhla says:

    hi how can i join your union I don’t know anything about it. I just hear a story about how union dissatisfied people. I am from pietermaritzburg, I work at factory (Ma baker ) as a general worker

  26. Musa says:

    Plz assist,I dnt know what category do I fall under,I work for DHET as an AET Lecturer on a renewable one year contract base and I want to join SAFTU ,plz help I want join I am in KZN,eMadadeni

  27. Hi im emmanuel phoswa i want to take a membership im from kzn may you please assist my contact number is 0794869427

  28. erick says:

    hi I need a union at my work place Cn u pls provite me wth ur contact details ,coz I dnt have a union or right En anything they say I hve to say yes if no I wll be fired at work I stil dnt feel freedom even now pls hel,I’m Erick pls contact me on 0768462318

  29. Siphumelele Sosibo says:

    Good day I want this federation to help people who is not professional but resigned for some problems at the government department like cleaners,massengers,porters (etc) why they don’t went back to their department but nurses,police and teachers they go back if this Federation of President Zwelinzima Vavi help people about this and government said everybody must upgrade themselves if they does that there is no company’s need gives the job because they need youth,what about woman and man who responsible at their families age of 40years up to 50years(old youth) can i get an answer about this please

  30. MBUSO NTOMBELA says:

    HI Comdrates im Mbuso (KZn) Dundee I wish to help SAFTU in terms of rectuitments around my area specially farm workers, domestic workers, petrol attendants,workers at different stores so please can u provide me with more details about SAFTU union.

  31. Siphumelele Sosibo says:

    Hi I like to know another thing is this federation helps security’s if it can where can they got information like form to join

  32. Tshepo says:

    hi I need to join a union how do I join. My working conditions are tough. I work in a regulatory body “council”. We don’t have a union only an outsourced HR department of two people that are not partial and do very little to help Abasembenzi. Staff are afraid of managers and a lot happens in silence of the lambs. Bloody parasites and predators think we have nowhere to go for representative. contact me on 0848536402

  33. Xolisa says:

    Hi do you guys have a Union for security’s,

    We really need you on this sector

  34. Peter says:

    Hi I’m peter I’m a correctional officer.popcru has failed us big time.they have failed to fight for a promotion policy for members which is our right.they were able to fight for saps to get their promotion policy and neglected us.for the past 13years or more we have not being promoted.we are in the same ranks.there is some sort of state capture here in our department.its time to find a union that will fight for us unapologetically.

  35. Siyo says:

    Where can we get Saftu offices in Johannesburg?

  36. How can we assist SAFTU to grow big in our area, City of Tshwane?I am currently working for a military trade union [SANDU] as a National Regional Organizer for a period of more than ten years. In terms of qualifications, I am having a Diploma In Criminology, Military Qualifications, Certificate in Capacity Building Workshop For Shop-stewards or Office-Bearers and currently i am studying Legal Studies Course with Ox-bridge Academy.

  37. zephania SBU says:

    I need a contract number of saftu

  38. Andries Nqola says:

    The launching of SAFTU is the greatest achievement for oppressed workers, whose living conditions continued to deteriorate under the leadership of COSATU and the governing party. I strongly believe that SAFTU will effectively address our plight.

    I am a facilitator at an NPO ( Mogolo Academy Abet and Skills Provider)sponsored by Exxaro Coal Mining company at Lephalale. We’re working under the iron fist rule of a very wicked head mistress who is arrogantly violating our labour rights, she is the law unto herself; treating us with utter disrespect, boasting the support of Board Committee which does not care about us. Which union under your federation can we join. Pls send me the contacts.

  39. GABRIEL says:

    I feel very happy that eventually this new worker giant was born.I’my available to volunteer as recruiter in North West if allowed.

  40. HI WE NEED YOUR UNION HERE IN ETHEKWINI MUNICIPALITY AND SAMWU MUST GO PLEASE

    MY CONTACT NUMBER : 083 494 0170

  41. Chris Mahlale says:

    To whom it may concern

    My name is Chris. Mahlale, I am working for the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) at Waterkloof, in an HR department, and as a Labour Relations Officer. I am also studying for a Postgraduate in Labour Relations with UNISA.

    I reside in Pretoria (Thaba Tshwane) and wish to do volunteering work for SAFTU as a labour relations officer in order to broaden my knowledge practically within SAFTU, as this might also help me in furthering my studies.

    Yours sincerely

    Chris.Mahlale (Mr)

  42. Subscribe me to newsletters to saftu

  43. Charles says:

    Morning at the company we r passing though difficulties place email me joining papers to ma email plz (cmwanunga@gmail.com)

  44. Tiny Mngomezulu says:

    We are a group of ECD practitioners we want to join or affiliate with Saftu please help

  45. Vuyi Gwana says:

    I would like to see SAFTU liberating Eskom employee from essential services please comrades we also want to have a rihgt to strike, no body is dying when we are not at work why are we essential, what is essential about Eskom work, even doctor’s go to strike

  46. Caswell says:

    Hi I’m currently in IT, please advise which union I can join as I’m employed by a small company which is exploiting its staff in regards to salaries and working conditions and too many things. How can we register with the union.

  47. Thomas Sithole says:

    Hi am currently working for the municipality and am not interested in the two union are the now I want SAFTU can you please give me contact number and emails of SAFTU because I like the vision and mission of this Union

  48. Leon Ntumbeza says:

    Hi where I can meet saftu at cape town or Saldahna i have problem please I need your help now my contact number is
    072 100 6147
    084 421 4981

  49. Hi. I’m Mr Mcese can the saftu urge Doe to bring back busaries for teachers who are still working and who wants to further their studies? Also qualifications and experience must determine salaries for educators. Doe must do away with this thank you think…if you receive another qualification.

  50. Mulalo says:

    Hi can I have contact by please

  51. sabelo says:

    hi were under cepawu and we need new chemical union that will stand up for us!

  52. Nompumelelo says:

    VIVA SAFTU VIVA!!!!!AMNDLA

  53. Thabo Sello says:

    We have lots of prproblems at work we need a new union please help us guys we don’t get help to other unions because we work fo other contract under a big company now they bay unions.

  54. Ndumiso Mtshulana says:

    My comment will be on the issue of only considering big cities while people suffer on the ground in deep rural areas people working at Quaries with under very harf conditions.Magwa tea which is made of about 5000 workers who work without paymement under Nehawu.I have a number of people who came to me sreking assistence i hope you will take this matter as more seriousley.

  55. Hai I Sphiwe Mthembu from mhlabuyalingana I am working as security officer we didn’t have a union.can we help us how to join the federation infact around Mkhanyakude KZN.

  56. Good morning beautiful people of South Africa.

    All those in need of assistance from SAFTU,

    Comrade Zwelinzima Vavi is the General Secretary please contact him on 079 182 4170.
    Comrade Phakedi Moleko is the Deputy General Secretary can be contacted on 082 491 5111.
    Comrade Mac Chabalala is the President, can be contacted on 078 804 9769.
    Comrade Nomvume Ralarala is the 1st Deputy President, can be contacted on 076 332 6521.Comrade Patrick Craven is the National Convener and can be contacted on 061 636 6057.

    Hope you will get the best assistance you need.

    Mandlaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

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