Kevin's Blog

I have spent the day getting an understanding of the Hotel Sector here in (a very wet!) Johannesburg.I was very fortunate that two of our Brothers in SACCAWU met with me to give me the benefit of their experience. Lucas Ramatlhadi is the Administration Co Ordinator for SACCAWU and Mike Sikani is the National Education Secretary for the union. Both men are involved in the dispute with Sun International (about which more later) but found the time to assist me.
Union organisation in the sector is still quite young as it was illegal to organise under apartheid . Apart from that very big difference their experience is very similar to ours in London. The constant attempts by employers to erode conditions, get rid of experienced full time workers and replace them with 2/3 part time casual or agency workers, lack of career opportunities, exploitation of vulnerable workers and so the list goes on. Saccawu has around 12,500 members in hotels and has 70 collective bargaining agreements wihere the union has recognition. Union members earn more than non union workers and enjoy better conditions but the union is ambitious for its members and agressive in their defence.
At present 5000 Saccawu members have been on strike since December 4th in support of increased wages, regulated hours and generally better conditions.Jennie Formby, UNITE's National Officer has already written a lettter of support to Saccawu which was read out at their Executive meeting.Both Lucas and Mike said it was much appreciated and I was able to convey our solidarity with them in their struggle. Today there was a high level meeting between Saccawu's leadership ans Sun International top management. This will be followed by a negotiating meeting tomorrow. Saccawu although confident continue to plan to increase pressure on the company. i will give you an update tomorrow. Meanwhile i plan tp meet some of the Saccawu membership tomorrow to learn of their experiences.
On a lighter note Joburg is about to welcome the "barmy army" of England cricket fans. This is a small forerunner of the World Cup that will be held here this summer. i intend to learn more of the trade union preparations for the World Cup as I'm confident that we can learn some lessons that we can apply in London for the Olmpics. I'm signing off now to venture out into the thunderstorm to find something to eat. You may be freezing cold in london wheras i'm warm but soaking wet over here!
Back tomorrow
Kevin