13 July, 2023The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) successfully negotiated for permanent contracts for 100 workers at earthmoving equipment supplier, Bell Equipment, which will become effective this month. For 10 years the workers were employed through labour brokers and the union was on the verge of a strike over the issue.
Under the labour brokers, who provide temporary employment services, the workers were employed under precarious working conditions that included earning 50 per cent of what permanent workers earned, insecure monthly contracts, and being excluded from benefits like pensions, medical aid, home loans, and vehicle financing.
“This agreement is an important achievement for the union and means that the workers will receive medical aid and an improved provident fund. This will fundamentally improve the workers’ quality of life. They now have job security and will be able to raise their families with dignity.
When workers are united, they are a powerful unstoppable force which can transform society for the better. We thank NUMSA officials and shop stewards for their tireless efforts in resolving this labour crisis and will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that workers get what has been promised to them,”
says Irvin Jim, NUMSA general secretary.
However, negotiations are still ongoing the outstanding demands that include a housing allowance of R2000 ($107), transport allowance of R1000 ($54), profit share of R2000 ($107) which the union says should be untaxed.
Further, the metalworkers insist that more temporary contracts should be converted to permanent. The conciliation is still ongoing at Bell Equipment under the Metals and Engineering Bargaining Council and NUMSA says should these negotiations fail, going on strike remains an option.
Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa said:
“We applaud NUMSA in its relentless fight against labour broking at Bell Equipment and other employers. Labour broking does not promote decent work as brokers give short contracts, low wages, and no benefits. It is also a threat to unionization as active union members’ contracts are sometimes not renewed instilling fear into workers and making them reluctant to join unions.”
In 2018, NUMSA won a landmark Constitutional Court case in which it was ruled that labour brokers cannot give contracts that are over three months, and should that happen the contracts become permanent. For example, if workers are hired for three months under the labour broker, the broker is the employer. But if it is longer than three months, the employer is the company where they are working.
NUMSA, which is affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union, organizes workers in engineering, metals, mining, and other manufacturing sectors.