'Unions must put economic growth & workers' interests first'

Vavi said workers are faced with many challenges in the workplace with no one to fight for them.

Convenor of South Africa’s first ever workers’ summit Zwelinzima Vavi in Boksburg on 28 April 2016. Picture: Govan Whittles/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Former Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) Secretary General Zwelinzima Vavi on Saturday said any labour movement that doesn't put economic growth and workers interests at its core is self-defeating.

Vavi was addressing delegates in Boksburg where the country's first ever workers summit was held yesterday.

Fifty unions came together to discuss the establishment of a new labour federation that will fight for the working class.

Vavi said unions are no longer relevant to today's working class particularly the youth.

"Seventy-six percent of workers in our country do not belong to any trade union."

Vavi said workers are faced with many challenges in the workplace with no one to fight for them.

"The democracy has produced a condition where the poor is getting poorer and the rich is getting richer."

He said at least 60 percent of the working class is earning below the poverty line and the situation is getting worse instead of improving.


The former Cosatu secretary general said South Africa's trade federations have long forgotten about their mandate, and if things are left as they are, the principles of putting workers first are at risk.

Vavi said trade unions should be self-sufficient and practice transparency and accountability.

"Yes, we want the unions that understand that they can never exercise force their democracy if they are not self-sufficient."

He said South Africa's working force has been fooled by federations that didn't consider the best interests of workers.

"That's why only 24 percent of workers belong to unions. This is a disaster."

Delegates have been making proposals on the principles and objectives of a new labour federation.