BAN ASBESTOS IN WORKPLACES! – demand South African unions

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The Building and Woodworkers’ International organisations in South Africa call for a global boycott of asbestos

UNIONS in South Africa are urging the government to join and back a global call against asbestos use – and for a total ban, particularly in workplaces, on asbestos use both there and in construction, as called for by the Rotterdam Convention.

BWI’s (Building and Woodworkers’ International’s) South African affiliates have also called on their government to join the global community in calling for the total ban.
And in a two-day seminar held on 22-23 September, various trade unions in the region said that while many countries, including South Africa, have instituted measures to limit and/or ban use and exportation of asbestos – as asbestos-related diseases suffered by workers are still not addressed.
The trade unionists also emphasised the need to bring the campaign against asbestos to the communities. They said many people still used asbestos domestically for their piping and roofing materials – and they have called on the government to provide the people with safe and alternative roofing materials.
South Africa’s latest policy developments on asbestos were also deliberated. One of these is the repeal of the Asbestos Regulations of 2001 (published as Government Notice R.155 in Gazette No. 23108, 10 February 2002) and replacement of stronger regulations in 2020.
Aside from the trade unionists, occupational health and safety (OHS) expert Warren Manning and representatives from the South African Department of Employment and Labour led by Elize Lourens attended the seminar. This opened opportunities for stronger cooperation amongst the trade unions, government and private sector.

  • And after taking stock of the extent to which violence and intimidation has occurred amid striking metals union workers for the last ten days, the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) has decided to endorse an improved offer to settle.

The strike follows a deadlock declared between the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and Seifsa since early August, and failed meetings subsequently to reach agreement on a wage offer.
Numsa announced it would embark on a national strike in the engineering sector from October 5, starting with a national march. And after sharing the results of a strike violence survey with the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure, including the extent of damage to property and infrastructure among employers and the potential effects of the strike on the economy, Seifsa has now proposed a new three-year deal.
The federation proposed that artisans receive a guaranteed wage increase of R4.24 an hour in year one, R4.45 an hour in year two and R4.67 an hour in year three. Further, it proposed that general labourers receive a guaranteed wage increase of R2.97 an hour in year one, R3.15 an hour in year two and R3.34 an hour in year three.
Seifsa will still offer the initial special phase-in dispensation for employers and employees who have been operating outside of the scope of the main agreement, which Numsa fundamentally disagreed with, saying it would be used as a basis for unfair pay or even unfair dismissal.
The federation says it cannot condone rampant acts of violence, intimidation and indiscriminate attacks on fellow workers exercising their right to work.

  • BWI’s South African affiliates have also called on their government to join the global community in calling for the total ban on the use of asbestos at workplaces, particularly in the construction sector, as asserted by the Rotterdam Convention.

In a two-day seminar held on 22-23 September, various trade unions in the region said that while many countries, including South Africa, have instituted measures to limit and/or ban the use and exportation of asbestos, asbestos-related diseases suffered by many workers are still not addressed.
The trade unionists also emphasised on the need to bring the campaign against asbestos to the communities. They said that many people still use asbestos domestically for their piping and roofing materials. They called on the government to provide the people with safe and alternative roofing materials.
South Africa’s latest policy developments on asbestos were also deliberated. One of these is the repeal of the Asbestos Regulations of 2001 (published as Government Notice R.155 in Gazette No. 23108, 10 February 2002) and replacement of stronger regulations in 2020.
Aside from the trade unionists, occupational health and safety (OHS) expert Warren Manning and representatives from the South African Department of Employment and Labour led by Elize Lourens attended the seminar. This opened opportunities for stronger cooperation amongst the trade unions, government and private sector.

  • Scores of Numsa members marched to the Boksburg North Police Station on October 15 to submit a memorandum of grievances.

Seen by the Advertiser, the memorandum states that they are appealing to the police to speedily solve cases they have opened at the police station after they were allegedly intimidated and violated by local security companies.
It further states that because it is their constitutional right to protest, they want the police to stop members of security companies from intervening during their wage strike.
Members of Numsa are also calling for the police to work hand in hand with their committees and marshals in ensuring that their members are safe.
The memorandum was received by the Boksburg North SAPS acting station commander, Lt-Col Kwena Meso, and acting Vispol commander Capt Sibusiso Radebe.
According to Boksburg North police spokesperson Const Justice Ramaube, the police have been given five days to respond.
Numsa rolled out its national strike in the metal and engineering sector on October 5 in a wage dispute. The police are continuing to monitor Numsa strikes in and around Boksburg.

  • Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe, local nurses have urged the government to capacitate health workers as part of measures to reduce the massive brain drain that has seen hundreds of health professionals leaving the country for greener pastures.

In an interview with 263Chat, Zimbabwe Professional Nurses Union (ZPNU) spokesperson, Douglas Chikobvu expressed concern at the continued loss of highly experienced and qualified health professionals due to poor working conditions.
‘This massive exodus has seen most of our health workers tracking to the diaspora in search of a living wage. To begin with, nurses have been sonorously calling and crying in splintered voice for a living wage to no avail from government and this has sparked a new wave of brain drain.
‘Measly wages, dire lack of tools of trade and poor working conditions among other compounding factors have triggered nurses to leave for the diaspora,’ said Chikobvu. Chikobvu pleaded with the government to come up with a financial model that (would) boost health workers’ working conditions.
‘The government should come up with a lucrative wage model, fully equip the health institutions with state of the art equipment and improve conditions. Fellow nurses who recently retired are wallowing in poverty given the poor retirement packages.
‘This has caused the young, energetic crop of nurses to seek alternative employers in order to light up their professional prospects and future. If the government does not institute a raft of lucrative and attractive measure to curtail brain drain, we foresee a looming health catastrophe,’ Chikobvu added.