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Last updated: 08 March 2017

Resolutions Of The FAWU Special Extended National Executive Committee Meeting

March 2017

The Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) held a Special Extended National Executive Committee (NEC) Meeting, attended by 100 delegates, on the 27th February till 01st March 2017 at Birchwood Conference Centre in Johannesburg, which discussed organizational, socioeconomic and political matters, and passed Resolutions as reflected later below.

The NEC was held in the context of continuing treble-crises of unemployment, poverty and inequality and with access to quality education and health care remaining crises for the working people and their dependants. In days leading to this NEC meeting, banks were uncovered to be involved in prohibited collusive practices as is the crises of governance and other viability facing state-owned agencies.

The NEC held its meeting to deal with the issue of job losses as immediate challenge facing the country due to actual and pending policies and pieces of legislation.

  • Chicken Dumping and Continuing loss of Poultry Jobs
  • Sweetened-Sugary Beverages (SSB) Tax and Expected Job Losses
  • Fishing Sector Quotas (Total Allowable Catch) and Threats to Jobs
  • Liquor Bill and Impact to Tarven and Shebeen Owners, Students and Workers
  • Tobacco Bill and Impact on Jobs and Socioeconomic Effects

The NEC dedicated three-quarters of the first day as Conference on the Tobacco Amendments Bill with independent experts and analysts, from Econometrix (Professor and Doctor) and Unisa`s Mr Dumisani Hlophe, having addressed and shared their papers/presentations.

The NEC further discussed and took Resolutions on the New Federation of Trade Unions and on National Minimum Wage in addition to discussing own organizational renewal program that is meant to strengthen the union in the face of political and socioeconomic challenges facing our country.

The Special Extended NEC took the following Decisions amongst others

1. On Jobs Losses

The discussions on job losses focused on sectors where there are pending pieces of legislation as well as on the poultry sector.

  • Poultry Sector

The NEC noted that the second biggest company, RCL Foods` chicken division, has retrenched 1 350 workers in its KZN`s Hammersdale farms and processing operations and the biggest poultry company has reduced hours of work by closing down some shifts affecting thousands of workers with reduced income. This being impact directly caused by cheap chicken dumped to our country from European Union`s member-countries.

The NEC welcomed a sense of urgency and seriousness demonstrated by our government, following the protest marches to both the EU embassy and to the Department of Trade and Industry, and hope that the Task Team established will move with speed in crafting packages of intervention and government implementing the same to defend the industry from decimation or significant shrinkage.

  • SSB Tax and Sugar Value-chain Industries

The NEC noted the proposed SSB Tax, even after it was hinted to be lower than the 20-22% at about 11%, will have devastating impact to jobs of a minimum of 5 000 jobs according to the National Treasury`s own study and that no meaningful engagement has preceded this proposal.

While we welcome the Minister`s pledge to engage relevant stakeholders, we hope that this should not be a cosmetic exercise but a true meaning full engagement in which government will be open to listening to alternatives proposal other than tax or a combination of low tax and strong regulatory regime with awareness and other interventions considered.

  • Fishing Quotas

The NEC was disgusted in knowing that the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) is hell-bent on implementing the new fishing quotas (or Total Allowable Catch/TAC) that will lead to job losses and reduced income to subsistent fishers.

  • Liquor Bill

The NEC was concerned that amendments to the Liquor Act was to be implemented as proposed then implications are that several hundreds of tarven and shebeen owners will lose source of income from a 500m distance, lots of late teen youths under 21 years will not have access to liquor workplaces for learner-ship, internship and other training programs and possible voting age if an adult age is moved to 21 years.

  • Tobacco Bill

The NEC was concerned that the intensification of regulations on the formal tobacco industry doesn`t seem to take the rise of illicitly traded tobacco into account as about 20% of tobacco consumed is illegal and this figure will significantly rise from plain packaging, retail ban and total ban at indoor buildings.

The NEC adopted a Resolutions that essentially calls for government, especially the Minister/Department of Health, to convene a Summit on Health Policy, Jobs and Heavy Regulation to the Tobacco, Liquor and Sugar value-chain industries in one platform so as to address the issue of balancing health objectives with socioeconomic/job loss impact, such that we do not have an "either-or" scenario but find a balance to a "win-win" for health and jobs.

On all of the above, the NEC decided to embark on an aggressive mass action that will be characterized by protest marches to and picketing demonstrations at offices of the National Treasury and those of DAFF and DTI among others. The 3rd protest march to the EU Embassy is on the cards.

2. On Radical Economic Transformation

The NEC also went into the concept of Radical Economic Transformation and resolved that this new interest is welcomed but that there is a need for genuine debate on the matter as our country truly needs radical, yet not reckless, policies to deal with treble-crises.

These range from fiscal expansionism by a way of higher tax rates on both corporate and personal income for the well paid, and new more taxes such as the wealth tax, as well as monetary policy targeting employment creation than narrow focus on inflation.

The NEC expressed anger that the African National Congress refused an unconditional offer of votes from the Economic Freedom Fighters to change the Constitution so as to advance the idea of radical economic transformation. The NEC concluded that this call on the part of the ANC will remain rhetoric that would not translate into concrete program, including through government policy steps.

3. On the New Federation

The NEC reiterated the Congress Decision of being a founder-member of a New Federation and to fully participate in efforts of making the same dream come true. However, FAWU will submit to other potential affiliates, at a steering committee, to ensure that the date of March be pursued only when the state of readiness does justify that a launching congress will be a success.

4. On National Minimum Wage, Bargaining and Benefits

The NEC was firm in rejecting the Government announce R3 500 a month (R20 an hour) as too low to can be a minimum wage and calls for such a National Minimum Wage to be at R5 700 yet it considers an entry to a Living Wage at R7 500 per month.

The NEC has decided to campaign for improved benefits (ie better provident funds, 70% medical scheme subsidies, and 100% subsidized funeral plans), improved working conditions on leaves, allowances and bonuses as well as health and safety for workers.

Having noted the workforces of about 450 000 fast-food and restaurant workers, 400 000 permanent farmworkers, 150 000 hospitality and casino workers among others, the NEC decided to embark on an aggressive organizing drive with a target of recruiting 100 000 new members by end of 2017.

5. Conclusion

In conclusion, the NEC resolved to remain a campaigning union that wages struggles in pursuit of working class interests in workplaces and in society. So the bargaining on wages, working conditions and benefits as well as campaigning against treble-crises of unemployment, poverty and inequality will remain the mainstay of the character of FAWU.