Fw: Zwelinzima Vavi: Address to the 1999 National Productivity Awards

Russell Grinker grinker at SPAMmweb.co.za
Sat Sep 11 02:33:14 MDT 1999

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<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>This might be useful to assist an assessment of
the capacity of the South African labour movement to resist current attacks on
its members.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT size=2>Russell</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT size=2></FONT><BR> </DIV>Address to the 1999 National
Productivity Awards<BR>National Productivity Institute<BR>by Zwelinzima Vavi,
COSATU General Secretary, 6 September 1999<BR><BR>Chairperson<BR>Members of the
Board<BR>Ladies and gentlemen<BR>Comrades<BR><BR>This is a historic moment, both
for me and for COSATU. From the day<B> </B>the NPI was established until shortly
before the democratic South Africa came into being there was very little, if any
relationship that<BR>existed between this institute and the black working class
formations,<BR>such as COSATU. Today COSATU is not only in a position to accept
an<BR>invitation to attend, but to deliver a keynote address to this
important<BR>function - the awards banquet to honour this year's outstanding
achievers<BR>in improving productivity. <BR><BR>This is an indication that
tremendous progress has been made in<BR>bridging the gap that formerly existed
between COSATU and the NPI. <BR>Put in context, this reflects the tremendous
strides that we as a<BR>nation are making in the transformation of our state and
its<BR>institutions so that the needs of all our people, irrespective
of<BR>their political affiliations, creeds and religious backgrounds can
be<BR>taken forward. COSATU today sits in the NPI board. <BR><BR>However, the
progress that I am referring to does not in any way mean that<BR>the challenges
to change the past have been adequately achieved. The work<BR>to transform NPI
and other institutions remains ongoing. It is in this<BR>context that I welcome
this invitation. It presents us with an<BR>opportunity to observe what the
National Productivity Institute is doing<BR>to facilitate an improvement of the
standard and quality of living of all,<BR>especially the workers that COSATU
represents.<BR><BR>Productivity of labour and capital is one of the key
challenges that<BR>we face in our efforts to build a new democratic culture and
ethos,<BR>and also to position the South African economy on the path of
growth<BR>and equity. <BR><BR>Apartheid robbed us of many things. One of these
was a more honest<BR>debate around the important matter of productivity. In
those dark<BR>days, productivity was seen as a blunt instrument of Afrikaner
bosses<BR>motivated by hatred to kick black workers around because they were
not<BR>being "productive". These pseudo managers often sent workers
experiencing<BR>problems with their machines straight back to work with only one
tip to<BR>follow - "maak a plan".<BR><BR>So for too long black
workers, in particular, saw "productivity" as<BR>just another means of
humiliating them as subhuman, and of<BR>exploitation. In a democracy and in a
globalising economy COSATU sees<BR>productivity as a very important objective.
<BR><BR>Labour has however been raising very pertinent questions in the spirit
of<BR>this debate of our times. I believe that those questions are even
more<BR>important in the context of today's deepening job losses and
the<BR>displacement of workers by new technologies. The challenges presented
in<BR>the form of questions are : - how can we not make productivity a
feared<BR>word associated with job losses and poverty? - how can we motivate
workers<BR>to fully embrace the need for increased levels of
productivity?<BR><BR>I am raising these questions because I think it will be
unfair for<BR>workers to improve productivity only to find themselves out of
their<BR>jobs as a result of these improvements. Equally we must at all
costs<BR>avoid mere one-sided benefits to the employers and shareholders, as
this<BR>will discredit our endeavours to make this matter a joint campaign.
This<BR>is why we unsuccessfully attempted to sign a productivity accord with
the<BR>employers and government on productivity in the run up to last
year's<BR>Presidential Job Summit.<BR><BR>Let me therefore use this opportunity
to make a call to business<BR>community for the revival of our discussion on
this matter, with the<BR>view to signing a special productivity accord. Such an
accord should<BR>explicitly recognise that there is a need to increase both
capital and<BR>labour productivity. It should take into account that according
to the<BR>Reserve Bank's quarterly reports, labour productivity has risen in
South<BR>Africa since 1991 by more than 15% overall. The same cannot be said
about<BR>management productivity. Central to this accord should be a agreement
on<BR>how productivity gains can be shared between workers and
shareholders.<BR><BR>We have rejected in the past attempts by some unscrupulous
employers<BR>wanting to link our wages with productivity. Up to 95%
of<BR>productivity improvements can be contributed by improved efficiency
of<BR>management through such means as the use of technology, training of
the<BR>workforce to use the changing technology, initiating
workplace<BR>re-organisation, etc. So if the employer used a machine that keeps
on<BR>breaking every second day, then workers cannot be punished for
that<BR>management inefficiency. <BR><BR>Perhaps the biggest challenge this NPI
board is facing is to<BR>facilitate this productivity accord between labour and
business. I<BR>hope that you can live-up to that challenge.<BR><BR>We are aware
that a new Board exists and the Productivity Advisory<BR>Council is in place,
all of which have been constituted democratically and<BR>with participation of
labour, business and government. This we commend,<BR>but it marks only the
beginning of a process. We shall have to thoroughly<BR>transform this
institution, its image and role.<BR><BR>The NPI needs a clearly defined
programme to serve as the basis for an<BR>engagement with all stakeholders. To
date there is nothing on the table,<BR>despite the new structures having been
put in place. If the NPI wants the<BR>message of productivity to sink in, then
it must itself operate<BR>productively. A string of board meetings and endless
consultation can<BR>hardly be said to represent
"productivity".<BR><BR>We need to have a systematic programme that
both guides and assists<BR>specific industries and plants to enhance the various
factors of<BR>production. The Workplace Challenge is one way in which the vision
of<BR>productivity can be operationalised by ensuring the participation of
all<BR>role players with a shared commitment to the long terms survival
of<BR>industries within South Africa.<BR><BR>In conclusion, we take the
opportunity to congratulate those who have<BR>displayed a commitment to
productivity improvement, and in whose<BR>achievements we celebrate today.
Clearly they have done this under<BR>difficult challenges as I have outlined
already.<BR><BR>We wish the NPI a success on the challenges that lie ahead. We
commit<BR>ourselves to work with the institution in our shared objective-
improving<BR>the quality of life of all people.<BR><BR>Once more thank you very
much.<BR>Dolly Ngali (P.A.to the General Secretary)<BR>COSATU HO<BR>1-5 Leyds
Cnr Biccard Strs<BR>Braamfontein, 2017<BR><BR>P.O.Box 1019<BR>Johannesburg,
2000<BR><BR>Tel: +27 11 339-4911/24<BR>Fax: +27 11 339-5080/6940/4060<BR>E-mail:
dolly at cosatu.org.za<BR><PRE>Charley Lewis

Head of Department
COSATU Information Technology Unit

E-mail:      charley at cosatu.org.za

Tel:         27 + 11 + 339-4911 (W)
Tel:         27 + 11 + 888-3835 (H)
Fax:         27 + 11 + 339-2281

Snail-mail:  Box 81185, Parkhurst, 2120, South Africa

Physical Address:  8th Floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street (cnr Biccard),
Braamfontein, Johannesburg

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