JOHANNESBURG – The Congress of SA Trade Union (Cosatu) has run out of patience with the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) and was not surprised by its decision to leave the federation, it said on Thursday.
Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said the federation had a right to recoup more than R5 million in affiliation fees owed by Fawu.
“Despite them not paying, we spent at least R1-million in helping them on court cases against employers, we had that responsibility as a federation. Fawu owes more than R5-million in affiliation fees after they stopped paying nine months ago…we have a right to get that money back to the federation,” Ntshalintshali told reporters in Johannesburg on Thursday after a central executive committee meeting.
The federation’s president Sidumo Dlamini said Fawu “had pushed” Cosatu to expel it following the expulsion of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) in 2014.
“It seemed Fawu had taken a decision to leave from as far as 2013 when the federation held its special congress. They pushed for Cosatu to expel them, and Cosatu didn’t. They have now taken a decision to leave,” said Dlamini.
“They also took a decision in 2014 to boycott executive meetings, we met to try find out the reasons why…we were still prepared to hear more because as an organisation we understood that they were going through difficulties.”
He said the union defied court orders, bankrupted itself, and purged members who did not want to leave Cosatu.
Fawu, with over 100,000 members in the food industry, took a decision to leave the deeply divided Cosatu at its congress held in Bela Bela, Limpopo this week. KwaZulu-Natal did not support the move and was not part of the congress taking place this week.
The union had been at loggerheads with the federation’s leadership as FAWU supported the expelled union, Numsa, and former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. The rift with Vavi and Numsa deepened the infighting and divisions in the country’s biggest federation.
Numsa’s 400,000 members were expelled after the union resolved not to support the African National Congress or any political party in the 2014 national election and to stop paying its levy to Cosatu, calling for the trade union federation to move out of its alliance with the ANC and the SA Communist Party. Vavi was expelled last year for bringing Cosatu into disrepute.
Nine other Cosatu unions aligned themselves with the call to have Numsa reinstated back into Cosatu as well as Vavi. The campaign failed, prompting Vavi and Numsa to plan the formation of a new trade union federation which would not be affiliated to any political party.