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South Africa: Unions meet to build an Africa-Europe network across the Lear supply chain

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22 June, 2018IndustriALL Global Union affiliates in Germany and South Africa working for Lear Corporation are meeting in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, from 20–22 June to discuss ways to collaborate on improving conditions for workers in Africa and Europe.

Discussions among trade union representatives and shop stewards from German union, IG Metall, and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) are focusing on wages, in particular equal pay for work of equal value; improving adherence to health and safety standards; employment equity; provision of transport; and other benefits. The meeting, which received support from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, seeks to strengthen the 30-year collaboration between IG Metall and NUMSA that can be traced back to the struggle against apartheid.

Employing over 165,000 workers globally, US-headquartered Lear Corporation manufactures automotive seats and electrical distribution systems. Of these workers over 44, 000 are from Europe and 16,600 from Africa. However, most of the African workers are in Morocco where the company employs 13,000 people mostly in electrical systems. In South Africa the company employs 3,600 workers of whom 1,552 are NUMSA members.

The meeting is a follow up to a discussion held last year to form a network that would not only share information and knowledge but also learn from the other’s experiences. The network would enable Lear workers from Africa and Europe to deal with common issues, especially the practice of lowering of conditions of service for workers in countries considered to be low cost by the company. There was also an agreement to facilitate the representation of South Africa on the European Works Council as the continents were under the same management.

Jochen Schroth, IG Metall departmental leader for shop steward policy and the union representative for Lear Corporation in Europe says:

“Transnational union activities make us stronger through joint agreements for future collaboration and learning from each other. This allows us to develop concrete steps towards building a strong network.”

Kenny Mogane, IndustriALL Regional Officer for Sub Saharan Africa, says:

“We welcome the Lear network in the motor sector as it will build solidarity between workers in Africa and Europe, as well as improve working conditions.”