WSF (1999): “One Big Union! South Africa’s New Giants of Labour”
From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 5, number 1, second quarter 1999. Complete PDF is here
FEBRUARY 24, 1999, was a red-letter day for the labour movement in the sub-continent, when two of the largest and most militant trade unions joined hands to form a new mega-union, the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union (CEPPWAWU). Mega-unions, that is, industrial unions based on a single sector, were one of the recommendations of COSATU’S September 1997 national congress. Formed from the ranks of two powerful COSATU affiliates, the Chemical Workers Industrial Union (CWIU) and the SA Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union (PPWAWU), the new giant pools the muscle and minds of 92,000 workers into a force to be reckoned with. The CWIU embarked on one of the most militant strikes over wages last year, with more than 47 000 workers (more than 20 000 of them CWIU members) downing tools at nearly 300 plants and blockading oil refineries in Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Newly appointed CEPPWAWU general secretary, Muzi Buthelezi, the former CWIU general secretary said the new union would have greater resources and its sheer size would force employers to show it respect.
“STOP THE COUNTRY” MEGA-UNIONS: WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR SOCIALISM?
SA Communist Party (SACP) general secretary, Blade Nzimande, is CEPPWAWU’s new honorary president. Whether this move could be an indicator of the future formation of a communist-labour political party to the left of the ANC remains to be seen.
But workers must not put their faith in this. Remember that political parties, even left-wing ones, continue to exploit the working class because they don’t abolish the exploitation of the working majority by a small elite, Continue reading