Bheki Ntshalintshali. Picture: THE TIMES
Bheki Ntshalintshali. Picture: THE TIMES

Labour federation Cosatu has run up a deficit of more than R10m in the past two years due to difficulties in its income collection, a decline in membership and financial instability in some of its affiliates.

In its financial report to be presented to its central committee meeting, the federation says the financial challenges have led to difficulty in the maintenance of overall federation operations and delivery of congress mandates.

Cosatu lost its largest affiliate and financial contributor when it expelled the National Union of Metalworkers of SA in 2014 and later lost the Food and Allied Workers Union after it resolved to disaffiliate.

Affiliates were spending millions on legal fees as a  result of infighting, said Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali, who addressed workers at the Saint George Hotel in Irene on Monday. "The problem of money is a cancer that is killing unions," he said.

Seven of Cosatu’s affiliates, including the South African Municipal Workers Union, Communications Workers Union and the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, are not in good standing after failing to pay monthly subscriptions to the federation.

The situation is so dire at the transport and allied workers union that it became the first affiliate in Cosatu’s history to stay away from the central committee meeting due to a financial crisis.

Ntshalintshali said Cosatu was losing at least R1.6m a month in unpaid subscriptions as a result of the difficulties faced by affiliates.

"The biggest challenge is not about extraordinary budgeted items but a shortfall on the anticipated income to be generated," said the finance report.

"This cash-flow challenge contributed to federation inability to continuously achieve its goals and objectives."

Ntshalintshali appealed to the struggling industrial unions, which are now in the minority at Cosatu, to allow the federation to step in and assist.

South African Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande appealed to delegates not to let union investment vehicles capture them. "We have been fighting with Cosatu saying no to business unionism."

Nzimande called on Cosatu and his party to return to their militant postures and implement progressive programmes.

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