The biggest test facing Cosatu is its ability to unite against attacks from the employers, its general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Thursday.
Vavi told the central executive committee of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) in Kempton Park that right-wing organisations were benefiting from divisions among trade unions.
“Cosatu (The Congress of SA Trade Unions) is currently facing a big challenge from splinter unions formed, often by disgruntled elements within our ranks.”
Vavi said these were the National Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Natawu), a breakaway from the SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Satawu); and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), a breakaway from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
Amcu has been in the headlines because of its reported rivalry with the NUM at the Lonmin mine in Marikana, where 34 people were killed last Thursday when police opened fire on striking workers.
“Cosatu subscribes to the principle of 'one industry, one union' and believes that workers' unity is sacrosanct,” Vavi said.
“This is why we believe that splinters are inherently reactionary, because they divide the loyalties of the workers and undermine their maximum unity.”
Vavi said Cosatu recognised the major advances made under the ANC government, but that these gains had been undermined by the slow pace of transformation.
“Today, South Africa takes the first prize in terms of being the most unequal society in the world,” he claimed.
Vavi said the poorest people, who made up 10 percent of the South African population, shared R1.1 billion, while the richest people, who also made up 10 percent, shared R381bn.
On health issues, Vavi said the scale of the health crisis was alarming. He said that although South Africa's child mortality was on the decline, it remained high at 68 deaths per 1000 live births. He also raised concerns about access to medical aid for the poor.
“Only nine percent of the African population belong to a medical aid scheme, whilst 74 percent of the white population do. All of these are the reasons why we must continue to champion the cause for the implementation of the NHI (National Health Insurance).”
Cosatu's view was for the NHI to be a single player and to be publicly administered.
Vavi appealed to nurses to commit to the provision of good and quality healthcare, despite the difficult circumstances under which they worked. - Sapa