Bheki Ntshalintshali. Picture: SUPPLIED
Bheki Ntshalintshali. Picture: SUPPLIED

Cosatu affiliates want its constitution to be amended to include a clause holding unions liable for outstanding subscriptions to the federation.

The proposal, which will be debated at the federation’s congress next week, comes amid its court battle to recoup about R10m in unpaid affiliation fees from its former affiliates, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu).

Numsa, which had 350,000 members, was expelled from the federation in 2014 after it resolved not to support the ANC during the national elections that year, going against a Cosatu resolution. Fawu, which had about 100,000 members, disaffiliated in 2016 partly in protest at Numsa’s dismissal.

Some of the federation’s affiliates are beset by infighting and maladministration, such as the SA Municipal Workers Union and the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union, and have failed to meet their financial obligations to the federation, sending it into the red over the years, according to general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali.

"The unions are not healthy, some are struggling and they owe the federation. If they were paying what is due to Cosatu, it [the federation] would be very rich. The membership we have should make us stable," said Ntshalintshali in a recent interview with Business Day.

In its discussion document set to be debated at the congress, Cosatu attributes its shortcomings to challenges in the economy, which have led to job losses, especially in the private sector, as well as the changing nature of work, which has seen the rise of outsourcing and casualisation.

However, it also admitted that lack of innovative organising strategies in line with the changes, union infighting and lack of service to members had influenced its decline.

With the fourth industrial revolution set to change workplace patterns, the federation could find itself in an even worse state should it not implement drastic changes.


Other suggested amendments include the insertion of a clause enabling the federation to hold shares in profit-making entities. Cosatu affiliates also want the extension of terms of office for elected leaders from three to five years, arguing that the frequency and cost of convening Cosatu meetings are not conducive to stability, while the current term is also not enough for the leaders to implement all congress resolutions.