Chairperson of the session, Cde Godfrey Selematsela
Minister of Employment and Labour, Cde Thulas Nxesi and your senior delegation present here today.
Premier of the KZN Province, Cde Nomsa Dube
Fellow members of the SA BTUF Presidency, 2023 and Presidents of fellow sister federations; FEDUSA, NACTU and SAFTU
Colleagues from Brazil, Russia, India, and China
Invited Guests from the Outreach and different regions of the African continent, SATUCC, OTUWA, EATUC, OATUU, ITUC Africa, the WFTU and ITUC Brussels
Fraternal organisations and our allies
Esteemed Delegates and Participants to this important BTUF Dialogue
“The contemporary world is a very unequal place, with massive disparities of income, wealth, and social participation. The top 10% of the world’s population receive over 50% of global income, while the bottom 50% receive less than 10%” (Alvaredo et al., 25th November 2020). This is the crux of our gathering, glaring inequalities and injustices of the global system.
We take this opportunity to welcome you all to this very important session the BRICS Trade Union Forum (BTUF). This is the 12th session of BTUF and the 3rd to be held on South African soil, even more, in the city of eThekwini (Durban). We are, once again, honoured dear comrades by your presence and time set aside for the important agenda in front of us, which would need more than a week, to deliberate properly and conclude issues sufficiently.
COSATU is more than proud to be part of this critical structure of the international trade union movement, which has evolved to become more than just a forum, but a Dialogue on key issues affecting workers and the world. No intimidation or threats against any member of BRICS shall succeed in dividing this very important alliance of workers and people. We have made ourselves clear that we stand for social justice, against war and for peace and anti-imperialism. These are our founding values as we strive to keep our hope alive for a new and just world order, in which workers are the core of what is of interest to society and the people.
We welcome back our leader and comrade, Lula Da Silva, who was here in August for the BRICS heads of State, with whom we fought hard battles for his release and are happy that he graced our soil and remains an important figure of the working class, even in the age of heightened tensions in the globe. We affirm the importance of an alternative economic and political system free from the clutches of capitalism, which has failed humanity and led to endless wars, poverty, imperialist looting, inequalities, and more disease burdens for the majority. The theme of this Conference could not be spot on when it articulated that our Cooperation is for a fair and inclusive development for all peoples of the world – Advancing Social Justice, Peace, and Dignity TOGETHER. During the two days, we shall be working on the Key issues affecting the BTUF, then join the Employment Working Group (EWG) and the Ministers of Employment and Labour towards the end of the week. This is a full week and so many eyes are on this gathering, to produce a set of concrete, workable and realistic outcomes in the face of the many challenges faced by workers.
We reaffirm the importance of the role we must play as the trade union movement from the global South and Africa in particular, at this critical stage of the evolving geo-political tensions. Workers are against war; workers are against imperialism and looting of the resources of other people under all guises in Africa and the whole developing world. We are focused on the development, industrialisation, job creation and skilling of workers to meaningfully participate in the benefits that come with progress. We call for more inclusion of women, youth, diverse groups, and vulnerable people in general because there will never be peace without justice and inclusivity. We are faced with environmental destruction that threatens the very existence of humanity, which has been a product of an accumulation system based on profit at all costs and not human needs. However, we insist on a just transition, that protects jobs, livelihoods, and careful transition to cleaner sources of energy.
The critical subject of Social Protection requires that we emphasise more on developing the capacity of the state, private sector and other means of wealth and income generation, to be integrated into the national pool of resources at the service of the country, people, and its needs. The private sector can’t be just about profit without a fair contribution to the national development effort. With these few words, we wish to welcome you all and trust that this gathering shall be a fruitful one, in which we shall rise to the occasion and outline a clear way forward.