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In October, I had the privilege of visiting South Africa, where I met with the presidents, elected leadership, and staff of CUPEs sister unions, NEHAWU (National Education, Health, and Allied Workers Union) and SAMWU (South Africa Municipal Workers Union), as well as with representatives of the African National Congress, the ruling party, and COSATU (the Confederation of South African Trade Unions), and a number of community-based organizations.

The trip was an amazing opportunity to strengthen CUPEs relationship with our sister unions and discuss strategies for our common struggles on issues like privatization. At a university in Johannesburg, where all support services have been privatized, the local union activists were eager to learn of our experiences.
I visited NEHAWU hospitals in Durban and Soweto where workers are confronting an HIV/AIDS epidemic that affects one in three pregnant women and millions of workers, not to mention restructuring and contracting out. A major focus of my visit was also the Municipal Services Project, CUPEs project with SAMWU that is partly funded by the International Development Resource Centre (IDRC) in Ottawa. The multi-year research, policy and education project is examining the restructuring of municipal services such as water, sanitation and electricity and closely connected to community struggles against privatization and water and electricity cutoffs and related evictions especially in Cape Town and Soweto.

Unions there are struggling with their relationship with the ANC government, similar to our own struggles with friendly governments. The trade union movement has been closely aligned with the ANC in the decades-long struggle against apartheid.

The political debate was especially intense following a 2 day general strike against privatization in early October.