It was slightly before 2am on November 8 2014 when the course of trade unionism in SA fundamentally shifted. It was late spring, balmy during the day, but there was an unmistakable chill in the air that night as journalists camped in their cars outside Cosatu’s smart, but allegedly controversially procured, new headquarters in Braamfontein, Joburg.

Irvin Jim, general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), emerged from behind the huge glass doors; the reporters scrambled for their equipment to catch the verdict, finally, of Cosatu’s central executive committee on its obstreperous and largest affiliate, Numsa.

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