- This article exists in:
About 170,000 workers, the vast majority of whom are members of the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) embarked on a nationwide strike in the engineering sector on 4 July after a deadlock in wage negotiations. The strike action which brought Johannesburg to a standstill, was also carried out in other major cities nation wide.
SOUTH AFRICA: Wage negotiations between NUMSA and metal and engineering employers broke down when employers refused to increase their offering. Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said they had dropped the wage increase demand to 13 percent from 20 percent but still employers are offering a seven percent wage increase, which does not constitute a real wage increase for workers. Employers are also refusing to outlaw labour brokers in the engineering sector, which is tantamount to modern slavery.
Numsa's engineering sector coordinator, Vusi Mabho, commented on the attitude of employers; "Employers are arrogant and conservative; they think they can still sustain the previous system by treating workers as they used to during the apartheid regime. prior 1994. It is clear that employers don't want transformation; they want to maintain status quo."
The Head of NUMSA's collective bargaining and organising unit, Alex Mashilo said that employers would have been able to prevent the strike if they had been reasonable when considering workers demands for a decent wage and an end to the practice of using labour brokers. "The situation in South Africa has reached a point where everyone can see that employers are unreasonable. There is no reason why employers must keep on insisting using labour brokers. They exploit and abuse workers. We want the employer to come on board to give workers their demands but they are defending the profit that they extract from workers".
Addressing the striking workers, General Secretary of the International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) Jyrki Raina said the IMF which represents 25 million workers worldwide supports the strike and believes the demands are both reasonable and necessary.
Remarking on the strike, a worker from Atlas Plastics said; "These are very difficult times for us. Once we put off our labour, employers will respond in no time. Even though they are playing hard to get, they will be affected. All I can say is that unity amongst workers can cost the employers."
Another worker from Sanji Security and Electronics thought this is one of the most successful industrial actions in the sector since 2003. "Although we are hoping that it will not take long, we wish that all our demands are achieved. It requires us to express workers power for us to achieve our demands. We note the response of the employer; seemingly, they are not prepared to meet our demands. The process of negotiations is give and take; however, we urge the negotiators not to compromise a lot without our mandate. When we go out on the streets we surely want to come back with something. We will continue to fight with that spirit to ensure that our demands are met."
The Plastics Converters Association (CPA) attempted to interdict Numsa's industry strike on Sunday July 3 2011 in the Gauteng Labour Court but the judge dismissed the application with costs. Workers will continue to strike until their demands are met.
Viva 13% viva!
Article by Sandra Hlungwani-Numsa