‘Numsa workers not affected by boardroom politics’

The union was kicked out of Cosatu through a vote by 33 leaders on Saturday morning.

Supporters of Numsa. Picture: Twitter, @Radio702.

JOHANNESBURG - National Union of Metalworkers South Africa (Numsa) says it has instructed its members to continue attending the Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu)'s shop steward council meetings across the country as workers there are not affected by boardroom politics.

The union says it will convene a special central committee meeting to discuss whether its expulsion should be challenged in court.

The move by the African National Congress-aligned labour federation may stir worker unrest and hurt the coalition that has ruled since apartheid ended in 1994.

Numsa was expelled by a vote of 33 against 24 at a special central executive committee meeting this weekend and says it will now meet with its leaders to decide if it should challenge this in court.

Numsa, previously the biggest member of Cosatu which is seen as a powerful vote-winning machine which also makes significant financial contributions for elections, has regularly criticised President Jacob Zuma's administration.

The expulsion follows two years of debilitating factional battles in the federation over the recruitment of each other's members and Numsa's withdrawal of support for the ANC.

Addressing journalists in Johannesburg this afternoon Numsa's general secretary Irvin Jim said if shop stewards in lower Cosatu structures want Numsa out they should indicate this at the council meetings.

Jim says he believes his union still retains overwhelming support among workers on the ground and it will continue to serve its members and called on workers to remain united.

He says Cosatu has been hijacked by corrupt leaders who are serving their own political interests.

Jim says Numsa will continue to fight for a politically independent federation.

" Cosatu has become consumed by internal battles between two forces; those who continue to support the ANC and SACP with their neo liberal agenda and those who despite their understanding of the ANC is a multiclass organisation, consciously and consistently fight for an independent, militant federation."

'CORRUPT, SELF SERVING LEADERS'

Earlier today Jim said the expulsion of the trade union from Cosatu, is the result of corrupt leaders who are serving their own interests instead of the interests of the working class.

But Jim says the expulsion was not constitutiona l and the organisation will challenge it in court.

"Cosatu's decision to expel Numsa was a well-coordinated reactionary attack on the organisation of workers, an attack on Cosatu and an attack on the poor."

The General Secretary says the real reason for Numsa's expulsion is a result of leaders serving their own political interests.

"We have to give them credit for is that they managed to achieve what the apartheid government failed to do, which was to destroy the federation which has been a boat, shield and spear in the hands of workers and the consciousness of the nation."

On Saturday Numsa said no amount of logical argument could convince affiliates not to expel it from Cosatu.

Jim argued that despite a lengthy presentation based on logic and facts, the metalworkers union's rival faction in Cosatu succeeded in booting out Numsa.

He said while worker unity has been dealt a blow it should mark the start of a new revolution.

'EXPULSION LIKELY TO CAUSE LABOUR UNREST'

Numsa's expulsion is likely to add to labour unrest, analysts said. South Africa's economy, the continent's most developed, has been hamstrung by strikes this year, including a damaging five-month stoppage in the platinum sector.

"Numsa expulsion will drive labour instability and make upcoming public sector wage negotiations more difficult," said Eurasia Group Africa Director Mark Rosenberg.

"Public sector union leaders have backed the ANC. They expect to be rewarded for their loyalty and will need to counter Numsa accusations that Cosatu is merely a labour desk of the ANC," Rosenberg added.

In a last ditch attempt to stave off expulsion, Numsa's general secretary Irvin Jim told Cosatu's top leaders on Friday that the federation that once struck fear into South Africa's apartheid-era bosses was now in a state of "paralysis".

Jim said Cosatu wanted to expel Numsa because it had spoken out against rising levels of corruption and "political bankruptcy" in the ANC under Zuma. Most of Numsa's members are black workers in key sectors such as car manufacturing.