30 May, 2022After a two-week strike in which workers marched on the streets and engaged in negotiations simultaneously, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) signed an above inflation agreement of 6.5 per cent with ArcelorMittal South Africa.
The increase, signed on 25 May, means that housing, retention, compulsory overtime, pension, shift, standby and other allowances will also increase by the same percentage. According to NUMSA, the increases will be backdated by June and workers will also receive ex-gratia once off cash payments of R5000 (US$320) each.
The strike started on 11 May with demands for a seven per cent increase. During the strike NUMSA, affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union, highlighted that the steel manufacturing company had declared high profits in 2021.
ArcelorMittal, with plants in Vanderbijlpark, Vereeniging, Saldanha and New Castle, wanted to stop the strike through the courts, but lost. The union argued in the Labour Court that the workers have a constitutional right to strike, protected by labour laws. The court concurred with NUMSA's arguments that the strike could not be stopped because ArcelorMittal had a pending application for workers in some sections of its steel production to be declared essential services - where workers would be barred from going on strike. The strike continued after the court ruling, while negotiations continued.
Says Irvin Jim, NUMSA general secretary:
“We signed a one-year agreement effective from April and expiring on 31 March 2023. The employer started by offering zero per cent, and we have moved significantly to achieve this result. This agreement is a victory for all NUMSA members who made the ultimate sacrifice to fight for improved wages and conditions. They did not do this only for themselves, but also, for future generations of workers. To achieve an above-inflation increase during the Covid-19 pandemic is a major achievement and it would not have been possible without them. We also wish to thank NUMSA officials for working extremely hard to secure this deal on behalf of employees.”
“We congratulate NUMSA for this wage settlement which comes at a time when the cost of living is increasing in South Africa. It is commendable that the union remains resolute and militant when fighting for living wages and improved working standards,”
says Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa.