South African auto and security workers plan massive campaign of strikes

Auto workers on a march – they have rejected the employers’ three-year wage offer

he National Union for Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has rejected a wage proposal from employers in the motor sector and is set to embark on a massive programme of strike action.

A revolutionary strike wave is sweeping South Africa, with education workers also preparing to strike against a ‘reckless and inciteful’ proposed wage freeze, and Numsa, which represents half-a-million private security workers, is preparing to strike for a 50%-plus pay rise demanding that the bosses ‘open their books’ if they claim they can’t afford to pay it.

The union has been in talks with employers at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), after which Numsa’s Phakamile Hlubi-Majola accused the bosses of negotiating in bad faith.

She said: ‘It means we must also drop the demand for transport and night-shift allowance because they only want to engage on wages.

‘They insist on the “peace clause” which locks into a wage deal for three years, and in that time, we are unable to negotiate benefits and conditions until the agreement expires.’

Numsa has requested the CCMA for a date to discuss and finalise picketing rules for its members in the motor industry as it prepares to strike.

Numsa plans to launch a strike across the vehicle industry, including at petrol stations, dealerships and vehicle manufacturers, if employers do not give into its demands, which include a night-shift allowance for petrol station workers.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Numsa said mediation efforts at the CCMA had broken down, and that it has rejected a three-year wage offer by the employers in the sector.

This entailed a wage hike of CPI plus 1.5% for the first year, followed by 5.5% for the second year and 5.5% in the third year for workers at vehicle manufacturers.

Employees of component companies, and fuel station workers, would get the same in the second and third year but a fixed 6% in the first year.

Numsa says this offer does not differ from the employers’ opening offer.

‘They have hardly compromised, whilst we have compromised a lot. Throughout negotiations, they have stubbornly refused to deal with issues relating to working conditions as raised by our members.’

Numsa wants transport allowances – or a night shift allowance – for petrol station workers, and a review of the peace clause in a three-year wage agreement.

The peace clause prohibits the union from striking during this time.

‘We remain open for engagement, however, we want to make it clear that we will only engage if employers radically shift their position. They must demonstrate that they are genuine about improving the lives of all employees in the sector.’

Meanwhile, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) has denounced the ‘reckless and inciting’ proposal of freezing public servants’ wages made by the Deputy Minister of Finance last week.

NEHAWU stated on Monday: ‘It is really disturbing that every time there are problems in the fiscus, workers must take the brunt.

‘Just some few years ago the same department introduced a moratorium on the filling of vacant posts which resulted in a high vacancy rate that we are currently experiencing in the public service.

‘As a result, the same workers that must face salary freezing are doing the work of more than three people while remunerated for one position.

‘As if that was not enough, the DPSA has instructed departments to cut the percentages of bonuses, further dampening the spirits and morale of our members and workers.

‘To us this is not fair because workers are doing their best to ensure that service is given to the general public but the Treasury is not appreciating their efforts but rather is subjecting workers to such nonsensical proposals.

‘NEHAWU will not stand idle while workers are punished for sins not of their making.

‘Our National Executive Committee (NEC) took a decision to pick a fight against the Treasury especially its orientation in year 2019.

‘In this regard, a comprehensive plan will be revealed very soon on the steps to be taken in waging a relentless war against Treasury.

‘It would be highly unfair for workers to be subjected to wage-freezing because Eskom has been looted to the ground with no tangible turnaround strategy to pull it out of the doldrums.

‘The looting and normalisation of profit loss is deeply entrenched at Eskom and will require strong leadership, prosecutions of those who are lining their pockets, and a sound turn-around strategy to save the SOE from total collapse.

‘Continued bailouts of Eskom in its current form is nothing but throwing money into an endless pit.

‘Moreover, workers cannot suffer because the South African Revenue Services (SARS) has failed to achieve the tax collection target of R1 422 trillion.

‘During our national strike in March 2019 we sharply raised the issue of the low staff morale at SARS and how it contributes to the institution failing to fulfil its mandate and reaching its targets.

‘As NEHAWU, we will vehemently oppose this silly proposal as and when it is presented at the Public Service Coordination Bargaining Council (‘PSCBC).

‘The national union will not enter into any discussion that seeks to take away what workers have gallantly fought for and reverse their gains.

‘In this regard, we will mobilise all our members and society at large for a mother of all fights against the austerity measures by the Treasury.’

  • Half-a-million workers in the private sector security industry are set to strike after wage negotiations collapsed last week.

Parties failed to reach an amicable solution through negotiations, with employers saying workers’ demands were unrealistic.

The national wage negotiation process started in August.

Mediation took place last Wednesday and Thursday, under the auspices of a neutral facilitator.

Nine unions last week rejected the five per cent salary offer presented by the South African National Security Employers’ Association and the Security Association of South Africa at the Bargaining Council for the Private Security Sector.

Employers offered an increase of five per cent for a Grade C security officer, with a rand or value equivalent increase for the higher level grades in each respective year for three years.

However, private security industry workers are demanding a salary adjustment to R7500 for the lowest-paid category of Grade C officers, R8000 for Grade B and R8500 for Grade A officers.

Currently, security officers are paid R4377, R4981 and R5558, respectively.

The general secretary of the Democratised Transport Logistics and Allied Workers Union, Vusi Ntshangase, confirmed that the unions had referred the matter to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) for resolution.

‘We are waiting for the CCMA to convene a meeting, which will be two-fold: to attempt to push us to a settlement, failing which it will issue a certificate for a strike.

‘We are hoping that in two to three weeks the CCMA should have convened us.

‘Meanwhile, we as labour will quickly meet to discuss our position,’ Ntshangase said.

‘But I can tell you this: this mediation will fail, because the possibilities of convergence at this point are too far apart. I don’t think this dispute can be put through normal mediation.’

Ntshangase said the employers’ stance on salary increases is ‘provocative’.

He said the employers’ offer equates to an increase of R1.86 a day, or R218 a month, and they would not accept that.

‘The employer is complaining about the economic crisis in the country, but they don’t want to open their books for scrutiny.

There is no scientific evidence to back up their claim. We are talking adjustment, and they are talking percentages,’ he said.

‘We don’t understand how the economic crisis affected them, because their rates remain the same. They are just grandstanding and provoking half-a-million workers.’

According to the Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority, private security’s contribution to national gross domestic product increased from 1.17 per cent in 2013 to 1.71 per cent in 2017.