Cosatu left out of pension reform talks
The National Treasury has excluded organised labour from talks on proposed retirement reforms, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi says.
"This is an insult to workers, since decisions are being taken about them on critical issues that affect them directly, including how their pensions, which are deferred pay, are managed," Vavi told reporters in Johannesburg.
He said Treasury had held extensive consultations with the financial services sector.
"However organised labour has been excluded from this process, which has evolved since 2007, apart from minimal and superficial contact."
The proposed "piecemeal reforms" of retirement funds could not take place without comprehensive social security reform, he said.
"For example, proposals for mandatory preservation of retirement funds ... can't be implemented in a situation where there is no income support for the majority of unemployed workers."
He added: "You can't ask workers not to take their moneys today because of the preservation until they reach the retirement age... you can't ask people to die now and wait in their coffins for some funds to come from government at the retirement age."
He said Treasury had called Cosatu's retirement fund committee to an urgent meeting to be told about developments in the retirement reform process.
In response, Cosatu wanted a bilateral meeting with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan "to discuss not a piecemeal approach to retirement fund reform, but a comprehensive social security net for South Africa".
Reforms should be led by the department of social development, which would work with Treasury to submit joint ideas, Vavi said.
Cosatu also wanted to meet with the department of labour about its efforts to establish a provident fund for domestic and farm workers.
Vavi warned of another "e-toll coming" if labour was not properly involved in the reforms.
"Something that will affect us directly is being discussed above our heads... you can't shave any person in his absence," he said.
Cosatu was also concerned about the Financial Services Laws General Amendment Bill which was before Parliament.
According to the labour union federation, certain provisions in the bill could remove any recourse for negligence against financial regulatory institutions such as the Financial Services Board (FSB).
"The proposed amendments affect millions of pension fund members nationally... as it might remove any recourse for past, present or future wrong-doing which pension fund members may have against financial regulatory institutions such as the FSB," Vavi said.
"Such serious pension fund regulatory reform cannot take place without a detailed engagement with organised labour."
Cosatu would seek legal advice on the bill and if steps were not taken to amend the bill, it could resort to a national strike.
Earlier this month, Treasury released a discussion document entitled "Strengthening Retirement Savings".
This came after Gordhan announced in his 2012 Budget that a series of discussion papers on the promotion of retirement savings would be released this year.
These would look at the best ways to ensure South Africans have access to appropriate savings vehicles and make adequate provision for retirement.