Fresh back from his emergency visit to a Carletonville mine where workers have been on a wildcat strike, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said Cosatu should stay ahead of the “rolling ball” of illegal strikes.
Vavi told delegates at Cosatu’s congress in Midrand shortly before it adjourned for the night that he and National Union of Mineworkers president Senzeni Zokwana managed to convince the workers at Gold Fields’ Driefontein mine not to leave the NUM.
He said this was the “biggest news that we are bringing back”.
Vavi said the miners at the Gold Fields KTC West mine in Driefontein near Carletonville demanded a wage increase to R12 500, the same salary Lonmin miners in Marikana had demanded, and the resignation of the union leadership at the mine.
The NUM’s national executive committee is set to deliberate on this overnight and report back to congress in the morning, he said.
Vavi warned that the political implications of the wage agreement at the Marikana mine yesterday were huge.
“If those workers force increases through a wildcat strike, what stops other workers from doing the same?” he said.
Vavi said this could spread from the mining to the metalworkers sector, to which some congress delegates initially applauded before Vavi said the wildcat strikes set a “bad precedent”.
“It could mean the end of collective bargaining in the country. Workers will just steam ahead and go on wildcat strikes and force us to follow.”
He said Cosatu should position itself “ahead of this rolling ball”.
The congress declaration on Marikana should be a “militant declaration” he said, and the end of the four-day congress tomorrow should signal the “rebirth of a federation”.
He added: “The Lula moment cannot wait for (the ANC’s elective congress in December in) Mangaung, it must start with us now.”
The Lula moment refers to the reign of President Lula da Silva of Brazil, who managed to improve living conditions in his country through socio-economic measures.
When he rushed out of congress this afternoon, Vavi told journalists he wanted to prevent “another Marikana”.
A total of 46 people have died in the violence that followed a wildcat strike at the Lonmin mine there, 34 of whom were shot by the police during a protest last month. City Press