PAWUSA Celebrates 45 Years, 1967 to 2012, demonstrating rich history in the struggle for worker rights and equality
STATEMENT: Launch of PAWUSA 45th Anniversary Celebration 1967 - 2012
Held at PAWUSA national office, 5 Buiten Street, Cape Town.
Once in a while, the power of human effort triumphs over adversity, and this is the case in the existence of PAWUSA, in its fight for the rights and freedoms of workers in South Africa. Remembering this fight, and the fight for equality, in the month of the worker, has got to be placed in context.
We have launched our celebration of 45 Years in existence, since PAWUSA was founded in 1967. The celebrations will be held in November 2012, in George. Every member has been sent a 45 Year celebration pack together with a celebration lanyard.
PAWUSA, the Public & Allied Workers Union of South Africa, formerly known as the Public Servants League PSL, or SDL Staats Diens Liga, is one of the oldest unions in the Public Service.
PAWUSA'S history dates back to 1967 when the PSL (Public Servants League) was established in Cape Town, on 23 November 1967 to represent employees in the public service.
In a period when workers had no labour rights or access to representation and collective bargaining and trade unions were racially separated.
Many well known people in the South Africa including Professor RE van der Ross, late Dr FJL Quint and Mr. AJH Domingo were part of PAWUSA's founder members. Professor van der Ross was one of the first Presidents of the PSL. Mr Aaron John Henry was the founding President. These and 65 others founded the PSL after their applications for the membership to the public service white union, was returned with their money because that union was restricted to whites at the time.
The immediate backdrop of some of the PSL union founding leaders political involvement, at that time, was the formation of the Congress movement against the apartheid regime. The formation consisted of the combined forces of the African National Congress, the Coloured People's Congress and the Indian Peoples Congress. This combined effort amongst other things, was seen necessary to defeat the enemy of equality, the master of oppression, and paved the way for the freedom of the people of the land, the original indigenous people of the land, and all who have come to live in it.
The PSL was the only non-white public service union at the time. Many current unions were established many more years later, some twenty or thirty years later.
The PSL was responsible for chartering many of the current labour law in South Africa. If you look back at the law history books and archives, including precedent setting cases won by the PSL, even before the current labour relations act, you will find many laws which liberated workers, which were engineered by the founders and former leaders of PAWUSA. We all currently enjoy the fruits of that labour and struggle today!
A very critical achievement of the PSL was the achievement of official recognition as a non-white union, by the Government after a long and courageous struggle. The Office of the Commission for Administration Circular 10/7/2/4 dated 18 January 1981, gave full recognition to the PSL allowing the union full organizational rights. This organizational rights meant that the PSL was authorised to have meetings and recruit members in the offices of the public service. All public service unions now enjoy that right and operate in the Bargaining Councils.
This is why PAWUSA members are proud of their union. At the event held at our head office, delegates and guests sat in awe, some tears and shrivels down the spine, as those with membership of 30 to 40 years, such as Joey Hector, Frans Volmoer and Stuart Cloete recounted the rich and glorious history of PAWUSA.
The courage of our founding members has been equally matched by that of those who have ensured it's continued existence, and perhaps more importantly so, and to this end we applaud the sheer tenacity of the current leadership of PAWUSA. The enemy of PAWUSA cannot prevail because of members who love their union. We gathered former leaders of PAWUSA and will continue to draw on their experience. The founding of the PAWUSA Seniors and Retired members forum will ensure that the wise elders and seniors of PAWUSA form an integral part of its stability. They have vowed that PAWUSA will live forever!
Bearing the torch of the members mandates is serious business. When union leaders forget that they are in their positions for the benefit of the working class, and not their own selfish gain and ambitions, and they forget to take the workers struggles seriously, the focus is lost and unions get a bad name. The decline of union membership across the board is blamed on many things, and creatively so by the capitalists and their puppets. But we believe that taking members and workers issues seriously makes the difference.
If not monitored, the relaxation of labour laws at the behest of the capitalists and those who wear crass materialism as a badge on their sleeves, will increase profits and weaken workers resolve in fighting for better wages and working conditions, fair and equality treatment, reducing them to undignified beggars yet again, increasing the income inequality divide.
The end of the oppression of one by another, as hailed by our honourable former President Nelson Mandela in 1994, and the equality we fought for, has not been truly realised by the majority of the population.
Being oppressed because of the colour of your eyes, the pigmentation of your skin and the texture of your hair, has been replaced by much more sophisticated methods of oppression. The drive for a better life, to get what you can and can what you get, must mean that one must trample on another. Every society must have their poor - you stay there - I'm not one of them - you seem to fit the shoes - therefore I must trample on you. The rich above me are getting richer and that can never change, and the gap is widening, therefore I must trample you more to get a higher position. I will abuse your rights and the labour laws of the country. The rich above me are rewarding for my efforts by paying me higher wages.
The class war is raging. The means of production is manipulated in order to generate more profits. Employers are not interested in creating jobs, they are interested in making profits in which labour is a necessary component, but also a cost.
Workers will always want to protect the buying power of their wages by demanding double digit increases and strengthening of labour laws, not the weakening of the same.
Employers will always want to, at the very least maintain profits and, if possible, increase them. This would mean squeezing wages and improving margins at consumption.
This class war sees the employers and their puppets always wanting to downplay inflation and increase the flexibility to hire and fire. But a smarter way to do this is to get a broker to employ staff. An even smarter way is to export human employment abroad to countries where labour is cheap because the workers have already been reduced to beggars because of the downplaying of inflation, the relaxation of labour laws, and the squeezing at the till. The worker is reduced to inhumane and unsafe working conditions and casualization of work with slave wages. And in order to survive, the migrant worker has to get his/her children to leave school and work, having learnt the same subservience, begging, and acceptance of appalling and dehumanized conditions, and absence of freedom of speech.
And so there are big players in the class war, that is those capitalists who reap the profits, and there are the smaller players, that is those who are paid higher wages as they make a success of being used to achieve the capitalists gains.
There is another smaller scale war raging in the public service. The across the board percentage salary increases of the Government means that the managers get much more higher increase in wages than the lower paid workers. For the three salary increases including the current across the board increase being offered by Government, we see this war being played out.
Over the three years 2010 to 2012, a manager on level 11, earning R 36 524.00 per month received a total annual increase of R 100 134.24. For a worker on level 4 earning R 7 102.00 in 2010, the across the board percentage increases meant that he/she received a total of R 19 470.96 per annum.
And don't we all pay the same for bread, electricity and water? Why should one worker get R100,000 increase and another get R20,000? What happened to equality? And why is oppression still here? Why do we tolerate hypocrites who preach equality but don't practice it? Is this the reason why workers don't want to join unions?
Real inflation is lied about just as in the other scenario, because the basket of expenses used to measure inflation is manipulated and skewed to favour the higher earners and the rich. What is even more shocking is the fact that inflation is higher for lower earners. Indication are that inflation for the lower earners is at about 6.7% but inflation for the higher earners is at about R5.4 %.
Just is in the other scenario, the relaxation of labour laws will mean that the lower earners will be exploited even further.
And so the challenge remains for PAWUSA leadership and members to stand up and be counted, and to act on the courage of your convictions. The legacy left by the founders of PAWUSA in the fight for the freedom from oppression, equality and protective labour law, should be honoured by our commitment to take up the fight in the new class war.
We need to take up the baton of the kind of campaigns which made PAWUSA strong at 80,000 members when the public service was still small.
We celebrate our resilience, our courage, and our commitment to sincere service to members.
45 Years! We're Stronger Together! Amandla!
PAWUSA GENERAL SECRETARY