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Struggle over name for new labour union

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THE new South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) might be heading on a collision course with its rival Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) over its choice of name.

Fedusa is preparing to take Saftu to the Labour Court after the new kid on the block refused to back down on their demand to change the name.

Fedusa is objecting to Saftu’s name because it “closely resembles” its one. It said it had instructed its attorneys, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr Incorporated, to issue a letter of demand to Saftu steering committee convenor Zwelinzima Vavi to change the name or face legal action.

The drama unfolded just three days before Saftu’s launch in Gauteng between April 21 and 23.

Saftu registered with the Labour Department last month, and its new name, chosen ahead of two others, is expected to be ratified at the launch congress this weekend.

Fedusa’s spokesman Frank Nxumalo said they had waited for the new federation to be formally registered before they took action.

“They have been talking about it all along so we had to wait for the formal registration,” Nxumalo said.

Fedusa has had to hold meetings within its structures to enable its general secretary Dennis George to report to Fedusa’s management committee, he said.

“The management committee mandated him to act. The (attorneys) have already written to Vavi asking him to change the name of their federation.

“There is a date given to them to comply. They have formally written back and acknowledged receiving it.”

Nxumalo said Saftu should not use the name because it would confuse the public.

Vavi confirmed having received correspondence from Fedusa’s attorneys, but had written back dismissing this demand.

He insisted that there was “absolutely nothing close” to their rival’s name. “We are so shocked with the stance Fedusa has taken – similar to the right-wing wanting to derail our federation.

Although Fedusa was one of the federations approached to discuss the future of the trade union movement in the country, it chose not to be part of Saftu.

Nxumalo said they could not ditch their 20-year history as a federation.

“We did not want to be swallowed. We have a presence within the labour movement and our goodwill has been there for 20 years,” Nxumalo said.

But, Vavi said Fedusa had jumped out of talks about the future of trade unions.

“They want to remain small.”

Vavi also said the legal threat by Fedusa would not affect preparations for Saftu’s launch.

“It is a side-show. It is a non-issue. It is very silly and petty of Fedusa to play the role the AWB and the Free Market Foundation would not want to do,” Vavi said.

“They waste workers’ money. They know that they won’t get a sympathetic ear,” he said