South African Unions to Form Rival Federation to Cosatu on May 1

  • More than 40 unions to meet on plan to form labor group
  • Cosatu is largest labor federation, in alliance with ANC

South African labor unions in industries including mining and manufacturing plan to form a new federation to compete against the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the country’s largest worker group and an ally of the ruling African National Congress.

More than 3,000 delegates from 40 unions will meet on April 30 to decide on the new federation, Zwelinzima Vavi, the former general secretary of Cosatu, told reporters in Johannesburg on Tuesday. The new umbrella body should then be announced at a rally on May 1.

“We need trade union unity. A majority of unions are calling for a new federation.” Vavi said. “The issues of workers have fallen off the agenda -- such as corruption, unemployment, inequality and poverty.”

Vavi, 53, an outspoken critic of the ANC’s economic policies and alleged corruption under President Jacob Zuma, led Cosatu for 16 years before being expelled last year. Vavi had opposed a decision by Cosatu leaders to eject its biggest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, which had refused to support the ANC in national elections in 2014.

The new federation will include the 365,000-member Numsa, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, which led a five month strike at the world’s biggest platinum mines in 2014, and the Food and Allied Workers Union, Vavi said.

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