On Friday 26 April an eager group of Rhodes University workers launched a new worker’s union. The South African Liberated Public Sector Workers’ Union (Salipswu), founded at Rhodes, has declared themselves a non-politically aligned union and strives to return to the basic principles of revolution in the workplace. “We are an independent worker union, worker controlled for better conditions of service, safety and health standards and quality public service.”
Salipswu is affiliated with the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), differing from another popular workers’ union at Rhodes, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), which is affiliated with Cosatu. Salipswu is an independent trade union, driven by the working class. Their principles state that the union is “always preoccupied with struggle for worker control and ownership” and “endeavouring for quality”.
“Salipswu responded to the abandoned historic mission of the working class”, says their mission statement, “which is meant to fearlessly fight for, protect and unite all workers against the employer and cruel capitalist exploiting regime at all times”.
The launch was well attended and included a welcoming message from the current SRC President of the University, Samkelo Mngadi. Salipswu stated at the launch that they strive to take the issues of the students as their own, using powerful protests like Fees Must Fall as an example of positive change on varsity campuses.
With May Day this week, the birth of Salipswu is significant for South African labour history, as well as the history of Rhodes University.
Meanwhile, Cosatu will be hosting their own May Day celebrations around the province. A press release states that “marches will be preceded by marches where memorandums containing workers demands will be handed over to hostile employers and the Department of Labour”.
Cosatu’s theme for this year’s celebrations is ‘Deepen the Back to Basic Campaign, Consolidate the Struggle for NDR and Advance the Struggle for Socialism’.
“This theme reflects the focus areas of our work from the last National Congress where we will be focusing on building our engines, protecting jobs, pushing for economic transformation and building unity.”
The union calls for workers to join them in celebrating the achievements under the ANC-led democratic government, as well as highlighting outstanding demands.