The manner in which the labour dispute at Lonmin's Marikana mine is settled could have wide reaching implications, Cosatu's KwaZulu-Natal secretary Zet Luzipho has warned.
It was an issue that the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) would discuss at its national congress starting on Monday, he said.
Cosatu would look "long and hard" at the implications of the strike on labour processes.
"What are the threats to collective bargaining processes?.... There are, what you call collective bargaining rights. The congress will have to get a special briefing on the issue of Marikana and its processes. Maybethere should be dedicated session," he said.
Collective bargaining rights and the Labour Relations Act needed to be closely examined by the congress, especially in the aftermath of the Marikana tragedy.
Last month, 34 striking workers were shot dead by police and 78 were wounded.
"The Labour Relations Act is what we fought for. We must then ask the question: is it something we must now throw out the window?"
Luzipho said processes for industrial action needed to be followed, adding that there was determination of collective bargaining rights.
"A precedent could have been set [at Marikana] that you don't need to have the majority of membership in order to be recognised for collective bargaining."
He said Cosatu's unions faced a dilemma and that the calling of an illegal strike was an "indirect way of liquidating Cosatu [affiliates]".
"Cosatu unfortunately can't call an illegal strike. If there can be people who can call an illegal strike and Cosatu can't do it, workers are going to ask questions."
According to a report in a Mail & Guardian last month, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) support had fallen from 66 percent to 49 percent among Lonmin's workers, while that of the rival Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) had risen to 19 percent.
It was Amcu's call for an illegal strike which resulted in 3000 rock drill operators walking off the job before the shooting on August 16.
"What are its implications? Cosatu unions must ready themselves to beliquidated. If they promote illegal strikes, then they run the risk of being litigated in a court of law and when they are litigated they will then become financially bankrupt and then become unsustainable," said Luzipho.
"Then, they will be driven out of the processes of collective bargaining. That to me is the real threat."
The only winner in the unions becoming financially unsustainable would not be the workers, but the mine owners, said Luzipho.
He said the Marikana incident had made it clear that Cosatu would need to look at how unions interacted with their members and better served them. It was also a fact that the unions had not properly communicated their successes to workers.
"I don't think we have done enough to create the necessary heart for our people to have a confident belief that the world is not collapsingaround them."
A number of media reports in recent days have tipped Luzipho as a challenger of Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.
"In my life, I have never campaigned or canvassed for positions and I am not about to do it now and I will never do it," said Luzipho.
However, he said any contest for leadership within Cosatu should not be viewed as problematic or as a sign of disastrous divisions.
"The sign of unity is when you are able to go through your internal democratic processes and still emerge as if nothing has happened. Cosatu has been through those processes before."
Luzipho is Cosatu's third longest serving provincial secretary, having started in the post in an acting capacity in March 2003.
He said that Cosatu's growth from under half a million members in the 1980s to its existing estimated 2.2 million members would automatically mean more challenges for the trade union federation. -Sapa