The State of cosatu phase One Report August 2006 Table of Contents




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The State of COSATU

Phase One Report
August 2006
Table of Contents


1 Introduction 3

2 Overview of Key Trends in the Trade Union Environment 5

3 Changing World of Work 6

3.1 Economic growth and job creation 6

3.2 Trends in employment and unemployment 7

3.3 Implications for union organising 13

4 Labour and Politics 15

4.1 Economic changes and the impact of COSATU 15

4.2 COSATU’s political strategy 18

4.3 COSATU and Civil society alliances 24

4.4 The impact of the neo-liberal political economy on the labour movement 25

Worker control and internal democracy 27

Mobilisation and campaigns 31

Decline of local structures 35

Trade union education 35

5 Assessing COSATU’s Organisational Strength 36

5.1 Changing nature of work and trade union membership 36

5.2 Organisational Renewal: Reality or Vogue? 38

Focus and priorities of COSATU’s Organisational Renewal programme 40

Gender and Organisational Change 47

Organising Strategies 48

5.3 Union Bargaining Strength 49

Workplace strategy 51

6 State of Affiliates 53

6.1 Synopsis – Key Findings 53

6.2 Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood & Allied Workers Union (CEPPWAWU) 54

6.3 Communications Workers Union (CWU) 55

6.4 Creative Workers Union of South Africa (CWUSA)-(PAWE & MUSA) 57

6.5 Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) 58

6.6 National Union of Metal Workers (NUMSA) 59

6.7 National Union of Mine Workers (NUM) 62

6.8 Police, Prison Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) 66

6.9 South African Commercial and Catering Workers Union (SACCAWU) 70

6.10 South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) 74

6.11 South African State and Allied Workers Union (SASAWU) 78

6.12 South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) 79

7 Research agenda for Phase Two 84

8 Concluding remarks 85

9 Bibliography 86

1Introduction

The aim of this paper is to make an initial assessment on the state of COSATU in organisational terms, to contribute towards the 9th Congress debates, reflections and deliberations. This paper is part of a longer study on the state of COSATU to be conducted by NALEDI Organisational Renewal Research Programme. The paper, which constitutes Phase One of the study, is intended to provide an overview of key trends within the trade unions and federation and the ways in which COSATU and affiliates are responding to their environment. To do this, we look at COSATU’s membership trends, and its corresponding political and organisational strategies. The focus throughout the paper is on the state of organisation, and the implications of various trends for organisation, given that this is part of the Organisational Renewal Programme. The purpose of Phase One is to provide a brief reflection to COSATU for its Congress, and to highlight key issues for further investigation and research in Phase Two.


Phase Two will conduct a deeper analysis of the various layers of union organisation, with an in-depth study of trade unions, using case studies on key thematic issues emerging from Phase One. Phase Two will conduct primary research using qualitative research methods. Phase Two will begin in October 2006 and will present a report to the August 2007 COSATU CEC.
The methodology for this paper, Phase One of the study, includes a limited review of literature, documentary analysis and statistical analysis. The literature review draws on selected research and analysis by researchers and analysts of the labour movement in South Africa and internationally (although not extensively given time constraints). The aim is to discuss and draw on available critiques and analysis of the labour movement, and key ideas on trade union renewal. The documentary analysis consists of COSATU and affiliate documents, reports and data, and is intended to provide a picture of key positions and assessments of the federation and affiliates particularly in relation to organisational matters. The statistics used are for analysis of membership and employment trends.
The terms of reference for the study were as follows:
To analyse COSATU’s political influence, looking at the following areas with particular emphasis on how this relates to the federation’s organisational strength:

  • COSATU’s positioning in the global labour movement

To highlight key trends in the world of work, with reference to the implications of such for COSATU’s organisational strength and ability to represent workers:



  • Employment and unemployment (employment trends, job creation and job losses by sector)

  • Quality of Employment (nature & type of employment, wages & benefits)

  • Strikes and disputes

  • Unionisation trends (union density, COSATU’s share of membership by gender, race, skill & occupation)

To reflect on COSATU’s organisational renewal progress, by examining the following:


There were a number of expected and unexpected limitations to the study. Firstly, NALEDI was unable to secure all of the funding that we had been promised, which meant that we had to readjust the research plan accordingly, and were therefore unable to do an extensive study. Thanks to the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung we were able to secure a small amount of funding for Phase One of the study, with the commitment to contribute more to Phase Two. However, because this did not meet our budget for Phase One, we were unable to conduct interviews with affiliates as initially planned, and we therefore hope to include this as part of Phase Two of the research. Secondly, we experienced major delays and inconvenience in the process of gathering data from affiliates. A number of affiliates did not submit information requested, despite numerous follow-ups both through NALEDI and COSATU. Unfortunately this means that the quality of the analysis of affiliates has been compromised, and certain affiliates are not included in the analysis at all. Furthermore, due to lack of available information we are not able to analyse certain categories of information identified in the terms of reference. Thirdly, the section on the positioning of COSATU in the international trade union movement could not be covered due to lack of time; we plan to co-ordinate research on this matter with COSATU International Department after the Congress, pending available resources.


This paper therefore reflects on significant trends in the state of organisation, drawing on available research and literature. It also highlights areas requiring further research as part of NALEDI and COSATU’s ongoing organisational renewal programme.
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