Sa Plastics Workers Win Right To Strike

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THE NATIONAL Union of Metalworkers of SA (NUMSA) said it will escalate the strike by plastics sector workers after the Labour Court in Johannesburg ruled the strike legal last Friday, and that the employers in the sector could not undercut the union and its members’ right to strike.

This came after Plastic Converters of South Africa tried to interdict the union from going on strike. In a statement from the union, NUMSA general secretary Irvin Jim said: ‘The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) has successfully defended the right to strike in the Plastics Sector.

‘The Plastic Converters of South Africa (PCSA) went to the Labour court in Johannesburg this week in an attempt to block the national strike in the plastics industry. ‘The employers claimed that our strike was illegal and they have been peddling this propaganda in an attempt to victimise workers and stop them from making their demands. ‘However, today the court found in our favour, and dismissed the application of the employers. They lost the case.

‘We welcome the decision by the Labour court which confirms that the strike in the plastics sector is a legal strike. ‘We condemn once again the attempts by employers in the plastics sector to silence our members and stop them from exercising the right to strike. ‘We want to advise the employers in the plastics sector that the only way to stop the strike is to give into the demands which our members have made.

‘Engage meaningfully with us on these demands and stop wasting our time with frivolous legal battles. Give our members what they want today and we can settle the strike. If you do not, you will continue to bleed profits, and the industry will continue to suffer huge losses. ‘In the meantime, we will be intensifying the strike.

‘All our regions will spend the next few days mobilising all workers in the plastics sector. ‘We are once more making a clarion call to all workers in the plastics sector to join the strike and intensify it until the employers come to the table and make an offer that will resolve the current strike.

‘This strike is a legally protected strike for all workers. You do not have to be a member of NUMSA in order to participate in the strike. ‘The law protects all workers who wish to participate in the strike, and they can never dismiss you for joining this strike. ‘We have made the employers in the sector very rich. We deserve a living wage and we reject any attempts to take away our benefits and wages.

‘This court judgment is the first victory in this battle, but we have not yet won the war.

‘We can only succeed if all workers in the sector, regardless of whether they are NUMSA members or not, unite behind us in the demands which we are making. ‘Join us, we can and we will win this war! ‘AMANDLAA!!!’ The strike is against attacks on pay and conditions.

NUMSA said: ‘Plastic employers have set a terrible precedent by unilaterally varying down the benefits, conditions and wages of our members in the industry.

1. Grade H minimum wage has been reduced from R40 to R20;

2. Leave Enhancement Pay (bonus) has been taken away;

‘3. They have increased hours of work from 40 to 45 per week and they don’t pay overtime; ‘4. Leave entitlement of 4 weeks has been down varied – 4th week if you have 4 years’ service has been taken away;

‘5 Introduction of area category – Outlying areas will be paid 10% less than urban areas (JHB, DBN and CPT). ‘NUMSA is irritated and dismayed that these employers are emboldened by the worst onslaught against the working class, as championed by President Cyril Ramaphosa of the governing ANC. ‘His introduction of the Poverty National Minimum Wage of R20 per hour is a terrible setback and an attack on the hard-won gains of the working class. ‘The same ANC, in its desperation to please ratings agencies, is also tampering with the constitutional right of workers to strike.’

• Around 100 off-duty firefighters who gathered at the Cape Town Civic Centre last week have called on the City to hear their grievances about a standby allowance and working conditions. With security already tight at the centre because of the MyCiTi bus strike, a few representatives were eventually let in to hand over a memorandum last Thursday. The City later confirmed that safety and security director Richard Bosman had received it.

The demonstrators held up various placards, including one that read ‘Underpaid but still proud firefighter’. The firefighters said they were not asking for wage increases, but to be paid fairly for all their hours worked.

Over the past few months, officials have been battling it out with the two unions representing firefighters – the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) and the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (IMATU).

Nearly all members of SAMWU are said to be boycotting voluntary overtime hours, in protest over the amount they get paid while on ‘standby’. Under contention are 80 of the 240 hours that firefighters work, which are classified as ‘standby’ hours, but which firefighters insist are equivalent to working normal hours.

Cape Town security director Bosman refers to this period as ‘down time’, and operational staff thus get paid a 22.8% allowance in terms of the collective agreement.

But firefighters say that this is not ‘standby’, as they are stuck at their workplace, rather than at home with their families.

They also stress that they only receive this allowance, and not a salary, for work on Sundays and Public Holidays. Other issues on the table include a R170 monthly meal allowance, policies on acting allowances, and career advancements.

SAMWU officially informed the City that it would be withdrawing, as of November 5, from a collective agreement that determines working conditions to enable a 24-hour service. The last collective agreement with unions was renewed in 2007 for three years. Since lapsing, it has been renewed every year, pending a new agreement between the parties.

The matter has now been declared a formal dispute, and will go before the Bargaining Council at the end of this month for conciliation. After the memorandum was handed over, Strand firefighter Leroy Cloete told the singing and dancing crowd that the city manager was not available and that they would have to set up an appointment. He was told that their grievances would be seen by the right people, including the mayor.

Cloete assured City residents that firefighters would still protect them during the dispute. ‘We will always have maximum cover and never neglect the community and ratepayers.’

In a statement last Thursday IMATU said: ‘The Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (IMATU) has rejected a Facilitator’s Proposal relating to shift allowances for Fire and Rescue Services employees in the City of Cape Town.

‘Negotiations between the City of Cape Town and organised labour, being conducted under the auspices of the South African Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC) deadlocked. Parties to the SALGBC are in dispute regarding payment for work performed in excess of the City of Cape Town’s normal working hours.’

IMATU Cape Town Metro Regional Manager, Etienne Bruwer said: ‘It is true that the current collective agreement makes provision for a monthly allowance of 22.8% of an employee’s salary in lieu of the additional and excessive working hours they must work. ‘It is also true that this allowance has not been adequately increased to account for years of inflationary increases. We all rely on our firefighters to bravely protect and serve yet do not make their ability to provide for themselves and their families a priority.

‘IMATU has referred the matter to essential services arbitration as firefighters and other related emergency services staff are classified as essential services and therefore precluded from protected strike action.’ The IMATU statement added: ‘The matter is set down for conciliation on 30 October 2018. Should no settlement be reached through conciliation, the matter will proceed to formal arbitration.

‘While our legal representatives have been briefed, IMATU believes that the matter can still be settled through negotiation. We have been interacting with the Executive Mayor’s Office and believe that with strategic intervention, the plight of firefighters can be adequately addressed,’ concluded Bruwer.