140,000 National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) members are on the verge of a national strike, which will bring the engineering sector to a halt.
The union is demanding a 15% increase, while employers are offering between 5 and 6%. Separately Phakamile Hlubi, NUMSA Acting spokesperson, said in a statement on Monday: ‘The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) calls on the South African Police Service (SAPS) management to ensure that the 10111 workers are remunerated fairly.
‘At least 5,000 call centre workers went on strike this week because the SAPS violates the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. Workers at the 10111 call centre do not earn the same as other workers in government institutions who do the same kind of work. NUMSA condemns this kind of unfair labour practice. This is precisely the kind of principle that employers in the Engineering sector wish to impose on our members, which is why we are now on the verge of a nationwide strike.
‘This government cannot claim to be promoting “radical economic transformation” when state institutions are guilty of exploiting workers in the same way that greedy capitalists exploit workers everyday. Police management are putting the lives of millions of South Africans at risk by exploiting SAPU members, and forcing them to strike.
‘The strike has now been temporarily suspended to allow for mediation to take place through the CCMA. We call on the SAPS to negotiate in good faith and ensure that they resolve the crisis as soon as possible, for the sake of the public who rely on this very important service.’
Earlier this month NUMSA said it ‘welcomes the support of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) in the looming Engineering strike.’ The union added: ‘SAFTU has called on all 24 unions which represent over seven hundred thousand workers in the country to back NUMSA in the upcoming strike in Engineering.
‘Comrade Zwelinzima Vavi, the General Secretary of SAFTU is correct when he says that “the strike in Engineering is a life and death struggle for all workers in South Africa. The employers in other sectors are looking to see if the Engineering sector succeeds in implementing the slave wage of R20 per hour, so that they too, can implement poverty wages”.
‘NUMSA is gearing up for the mother of all strikes in Engineering. Employers have waged an all out war on all workers in South Africa and we have to fight back. The racist sexist employers in Engineering have the backing and the support of the ANC government, and the Deputy President of the country, Cyril Ramaphosa, is the one leading the charge.
‘It is ironic that Ramaphosa who built his career as a trade unionist, has re-invented himself as a union basher. The deputy President who founded the once mighty National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), is responsible for driving and implementing the National Minimum Wage of R20 per hour.
‘It is because of this decision that bosses in the Engineering sector are demanding that we accept a proposal that new employees in the sector should be paid half of the minimum rate. So whilst other workers are earning R40 or more, Employers want to pay new workers slave wages!
‘Yellow bellied trade union federations like COSATU are also responsible for this situation. They approved the poverty minimum wage, which NUMSA was vociferously opposed to. COSATU is truly a shell of its former self. Besides being a mere labour desk for the governing party, they only care about the ANC’s factional battles, instead of fighting this attack on the working class.
‘Currently they are too busy mobilising workers to support Ramaphosa, The Union Basher, as a candidate for president! We have not yet announced a decision to go on strike as we are in the process of mobilising our members. Once we have received the strike certificate it will be easier to map a way forward and we will also be able to say when the strike will take place.
‘The strike will allow all workers in Engineering sector to down tools, whether they are NUMSA members or not. NUMSA is calling on all workers in South Africa to support this strike. We are fighting for a living wage for our members and their families. Workers in South Africa support up to seven extended family members on their wages.
‘If the Engineering employers succeed in implementing this poverty wage, then all workers in all sectors will be affected. Those workers who are earning more and think that the NMW will not affect them, will eventually experience a cut in wages and their benefits will shrink even more.’
Meanwhile, 60% of the workforce of the National Health and Laboratory Services were set to strike from Wednesday. The service provides pathology services to over 80% of the population. Wage negotiations with the National Education and health Allied Workers Union have deadlocked.
The union’s Khaya Xaba said ahead of a meeting with employers on Monday: ‘We are asking for a 7.3% increase but the employer is only willing to give 3%. And we also want a housing allowance of R2,000. If you’re working with blood as we do, to an extent you put your life in danger, so you need to have a danger allowance.’
• The COSATU-affiliated Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU) has settled its 2017 wage negotiations for the leather tanning sector. Andre Kriel, SACTWU General Secretary, said: ‘This is a two year agreement that has been reached with the South African Tanning Employers Organisation (SATEO).
‘Workers in this sector will receive a 7.75% wage increase this year and another 7.75% increase next year. However if the April 2018 CPI exceeds 8% the Union may renegotiate the increase for 2018, and if it falls below 3%, the employer party may request to renegotiate the increase for 2018. The new increases will come into effect retrospectively on 1 July 2017 and further in 1 July 2018, respectively.
‘This agreement was reached under the auspices of the national bargaining council for the leather sector. Approximately 3,240 workers, nationally, will benefit from this wage improvement in conditions of employment.’
• Erick Gcilitshana, NUM Health and Safety Secretary, has said in a statement: ‘The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is highly furious by reports alleging that Tau Lekoa gold mine in Orkney, North West, ignored instructions from rock engineers who inspected the mine few days before the seismic incident that resulted in the death of four mine workers last Saturday.
‘The union has learned with shock that on Wednesday (July 19, 2017), rock engineers went underground for a routine inspection and came out with recommendations that directed the mine management on how the area should be mined.’
Gcilitshana stressed: ‘The NUM is highly disturbed by this tragic death of workers. This accident, like any other mining accidents, could have been prevented. We are told that recommendations were presented by rock engineers to the mine on how to mine safely.’
The NUM said: ‘The seismic incident happened on Saturday, four mine workers who were working overtime were trapped. One body was recovered on the same day while two were recovered yesterday. The victims are from Kuruman in North West, Sterkspruit in Eastern Cape and Lesotho.’
‘We want to call upon the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) to fully investigate this unfortunate accident. As the NUM we will make sure that no stone is left unturned,’ said Gcilitshana. The union statement added: ‘The NUM continues to insist that mining companies must be held fully accountable for such accidents. They should shoulder responsibility and liability after every workplace injury or death.
‘As a union, we thought we were starting to observe a decline in fatal accidents. 52 fatalities were reported last year this time, already 41 fatalities have been reported so far since January this year.
‘The NUM sends its heartfelt condolences to the affected families of the victims.’