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Press statement issued by the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

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From extreme ‘left’ to extreme right – at the stroke of a pen

The Oil, Chemical, General and Allied Workers’ Union (OCGAWU) has signed a Recognition Agreement which takes away workers’ constitutional right to strike.

This is the same ‘left-wing’ OCGAWU that made sweeping denunciations of COSATU and its affiliate NUMSA for ‘selling out’ members at the Uitenhage VWSA plant. They falsely accused NUMSA of ‘collaboration’ with management, spread misinformation among the workers and undermined the union leadership.

They presented themselves as the authentic voice of left-wing trade unionism. Now suddenly they have signed a Recognition Agreement with Union Spinning Mills (Pty) Ltd, which takes away workers’ most basic constitutionally entrenched rights.

Clause 11 of the Recognition Agreement, which deals with ways to resolve disputes through negotiation, states: “If the dispute remains unresolved after 8 (eight) normal working days of the dispute being declared, such dispute shall be referred to private arbitration.”

Private arbitration is the only course of action allowed. There is no right to strike. If the employers adopt an intransigent position, workers will be powerless. This clause covers all “matters of mutual interest”, a legal term which includes wages and working conditions - all the most important issues for workers.

Another clause commits the union to an agreement on wages and other substantive conditions of employment which cannot be renegotiated until 2003. And the Recognition Agreement cannot be amended, varied, modified or waived.

COSATU and its affiliates condemn this agreement as a capitulation to the employers and warn other workers not to be fooled by such splinter ‘unions’. They offer to fight for the workers but when it comes to delivery, they enter agreements like this, which no genuine trade union could possibly accept. From the extreme left, OCGAWU has swung through 180 degrees to the extreme right of the trade union movement.

Siphiwe Mgcina
COSATU Spokesperson

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