The column by the General Secretary of Numsa, Cde Irvin Jim, entitled “Workers must reject proposed agreement between government and Cosatu” is predictable to the point of being tiresome. Cde Irvin Jim’s way with the truth is as self-serving as ever. He is of course a master of political chicanery and as he is a professional naysayer on matters Cosatu, we have stopped being shocked. It would be easy to just ignore and shrug him off, but sometimes one cannot rely on the fair-mindedness of readers, when confronted by such hypocrisy and junk demagoguery.
In his article, he does not disappoint, and acts as expected by deliberately conflating issues and misrepresenting the Cosatu position to achieve his aim of smearing the federation. What is surprising is that for a man on a “mission”, he seems to have ample time to indulge in his favourite pastime of presenting an ongoing commentary on Cosatu. He has buried and revived the federation so many times, in his public statements, that we have lost count. One would expect him to be too busy launching the United Front, the Movement for Socialism, and a ‘new’ federation, to be engaging in subjugating discourses, where he reminds everyone that he is the only revolutionary in town.
The fact of the matter is that the federation is not in discussions with anyone, including National Treasury, about labour reforms and the introduction of compulsory arbitration during strikes. We are, unapologetically though, going to remain constructive partners in any process that will help kickstart our ailing economy, create new jobs, reduce inequality and help save existing jobs.
Having said that, we remain opposed to the labour law reform proposals that seek to weaken unions and leave workers vulnerable to exploitation and victimisation. The 12th National Congress of Cosatu was very clear that we shall oppose any talk of labour reforms and that we will not allow any legislation or policy that is meant to undermine the workers’ right to strike. We have been at the forefront of the push-back against the Free Market Foundation and its partners, like the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), who are hellbent on eroding hard-won workers rights.
Cde Irvin Jim continues to attack the federation’s call for workers to balance their negotiations for wage increases with saving jobs. We are unapologetic for making that call because it does not make sense for workers to get an increase only for people to be retrenched thereafter; with only a few remaining to enjoy the benefits of that increase. His obsolete bravado on this matter is hypocritical because he knows that the process of bargaining is about capital and labour working together to reconcile their competing claims. So his theatrical sloganeering is nothing but political posturing, and his arguments are just noise diversions and vacuous red herrings.
This is the same Irvin Jim, incidentally, who released a media statement on 24 August 2015, pleading with government to save the steel industry. In it he wrote:
Lastly, as labour, we want to thank the CEOs and SEIFSA for embarking on this noble journey with us to save this strategic sector of our economy from collapse. This journey has called on all of us to take collective action to avoid jobs being shed. We hope business will go back and rethink their decisions in the interest of our members and society at large.
This pitiful pleading and thankful statement was released by him begging government to save capitalism from capitalists, and in the process save workers’ jobs. No one called him a useful idiot of monopoly capital and a sell-out for pleading with government on behalf of company owners to save the steel industry. We understood then, like we understand now, that the price for getting economic relations wrong is calamity, and that we need to do everything to save jobs.
In the same vein, we have called on big business to change the nature of doing business and realise that the era of exorbitant executive salaries is over. The time has arrived for them to question the efficacy and the necessity of these excessive executive pays during a time of crisis. Business executives have to fulfil their moral obligations voluntarily by curbing their massive wage increases and also work to lessen the huge salary gap that creates resentment on the side of the workers.
Photo: Werner Beukes/SAPA
"Have you ever noticed how ‘What the hell’ is always the right decision to make?" ~ Terry Johnson