Numsa’s Construction Workers Down Tools!

NUMSA engineering members have just finished a successful strike action
NUMSA engineering members have just finished a successful strike action

WORKERS at South Africa’s construction supplies giant, Form-Scaff, nationally, members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) have downed tools and come out on a protected strike since Monday 25 August 2014.

Form-Scaff is South Africa’s market leader in the supply of formwork, supportwork and scaffolding to the construction and civil engineering industries. The strike action is after the employer arrogantly failed to meet the union’s demands.

NUMSA as mandated by its members has taken a decision to exercise its only power at its disposal – indefinite strike action.

A NUMSA statement said: ‘We are fully aware of the socio-economic burden the strike action will impose on our members, since the bourgeois principle of No Work No Pay will be lifted, and might be used by the greedy Bosses to weaken and fragment our genuine demands for a Living Wage and improved conditions of employment.

‘We are emboldened by resolve of our members to use this strike as a tactical tool to force the Bosses to return to the negotiating table’, added NUMSA.

‘These are some of our core demands; (1) 15% wage increase across the board; and R20 minimum wage, whichever is greater; (2) 40hrs working per week without any loss of pay; (3) 1-year Bargaining Agreement; (3) 75% employer contribution towards medical aid; (4) No implementation of the Employment Tax Incentive Scheme in the company/sector.

‘Our demands should be understood or located within the ideological fog being spread by politicians that we have a ‘Good Story to Tell’, since the dawn of democracy.

‘In reality it has not only been a bad to story to tell by workers, but it has been a disastrous two decades given the fact that workers continue to be subjected to colonial apartheid poverty wagers, living in squalid and dehumanising conditions.

‘Our members in this company live in shacks and informal settlements, their wages are insufficient to afford decent housing and other important basic necessities. The bosses are only interested in extracting huge profits from our labour.

‘Our lowest paid members earn a paltry R2,640 per month while it’s known that this contracting company is reaping millions of rands from the construction companies. We are willing to unleash all our organisational power by halting production, in order for the bosses to concede to our demands.

‘We are forever ready to engage provided an offer is placed on the table. It has never been our intention to embark on an indefinite strike, but it has been imposed on us by the bosses, and we will not allow ourselves to be blackmailed by anyone – we will forge ahead with this strike until our demands are fully met by the bosses.’

Meanwhile a South African court has withdrawn charges against the 279 miners who were arrested during the titanic struggle of the Marikana miners to secure better wages and conditions on August 2012. Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police on August 16, 2012.

Over 70 people were wounded and over 200 were arrested. The 279 workers were tried under the ‘common purpose’ doctrine because they were in the crowd which confronted police on August 16. The legislation brought in under the apartheid era is still on the books in South Africa.

The surviving miners were charged with public violence, illegal gathering, possession of dangerous weapons and intimidation following the strike at the Lonmin mine.

Survivors of the August 2012 massacre in Marikana South Africa, heard the decision by the Ga-Rankuwa Magistrate’s Court last Wednesday 20 August to drop charges against all the miners.

Miners and their families believe that the government, the police chiefs, including police commissioner Riah Phiyega and the minister of police Nathi Mthethwa, as well as others such as Cyril Ramaphosa, should be charged with murder.

Andries Nkome, who was part of the defence team, said this had been the defence’s argument from the beginning: ‘The charges against the miners were dropped due to the fact that the State would not be able to prove their cases if the matter went to trial.’

Nkome said the miners were now weighing their options about laying charges against the police, who they claim injured and assaulted them during the arrests.

‘They are considering their legal options about the assault, and their decision on how to go about the matter will be made known in due course,’ he said.

A Farlam Commission was set up to investigate the deaths of 44 people at Lonmin’s platinum mine in Marikana, near Rustenburg, North West, in August 2012. Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police on August 16, 2012.

In the preceding week, ten people, including two policemen and two security guards, had been killed.

The Farlam Commission heard claims the police deliberately shot miners while they were trying to surrender.

Three miners have backed up claims that police shot them while they were surrendering, including one who says he was fired at from around five metres.

• Meanwhile, mine owners have announced plans to axe jobs.

General secretary Gideon du Plessis of the trade union Solidarity at Marikana outside Rustenburg in North West, said the SA trade unions were not aware about job cuts at Lonmin mines.

‘We were waiting for something like this to occur. We are not surprised,’ said Plessis.

‘Lonmin had indicated during wage negotiations that it was assessing some of its shafts that were not making profit. We were told during negotiation that retrenchments are imminent. The company has not formally consulted with us, Solidarity, with its plan to cut jobs. We only picked it up on the news, he said.

The dominant union at Lonmin, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), also said it was not aware of the planned job cuts as did the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) which said it was not aware of the impending retrenchment.

‘We have not been consulted about it. There has not been formal engagement,’ said NUM general secretary Frans Baleni.

He said the retrenchments might be triggered by the long strike in the platinum sector. AMCU members at Lonmin, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) and Impala downed tools on January 23, demanding a basic monthly salary of R12 500.

The strike ended on June 24 when they accepted a three-year wage deal that will increase salaries by R1000 in the first and second year of the agreement and R950 in the third year. Lonmin was not available for comment.

Meanwhile, Amplats announced on July 21 that it planned to sell its Rustenburg and Union mines.

‘The intention to exit Union mine in Limpopo has already been announced, and it has now been concluded that Rustenburg and our Pandora JV asset will be better placed in the hands of new owners who would be able to provide the focus and capital for the operations to have a successful future,’ said CEO Chris Griffith.

The company broke the news, reporting vastly reduced profits for the six months ending June 30 2014.

Griffith said the dominant feature of the first half of the year was the strike, during which 40% of Amplats’s production was not in operation.

On August 16, AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa told thousands of mineworkers that the Amplats plan to cut jobs was not linked to the recent wage strike in the platinum sector.

‘We submit that the magnitude of this decision is not one that can be taken in a month’, said Mathunjwa.

‘As a union we are prepared to discuss the plans of the company to protect the interests of our members in this transition process.’