A strike by workers at the Howick plant of Dunlop Industrial Products over higher wages and improved working conditions has turned violent.
The company, which also has plants in Benoni and Krugersdorp, manufactures automotive rubber products and mouldings, steel and textile reinforced rubber conveyor belting and moulded rubber products for the mining and allied industries.
Dunstan Farrell, Dunlop’s attorney, said yesterday the company last week obtained an order in the Labour Court in Durban that directed the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and its members to act lawfully and directed the police to enforce compliance of the order.
Farrell said Numsa members gathered at the gate of the company at the start of the strike last Wednesday and refused to allow anyone to enter or exit the premises.
He said the police had simply stood by without engaging and ensuring that Numsa members acted lawfully.
Farrell said Dunlop would not tolerate unlawful conduct and claimed Numsa members continued to damage property.
A number of vehicles of individuals trying to enter or exit Dunlop’s premises had been damaged and an employee’s home in Howick set alight, he said.
“A number of employees participating in unlawful conduct have been identified by photographs and CCTV footage. Disciplinary action will be taken against these individuals should they return to work,” he said.
Farrell added that Dunlop had carefully considered its position on changes to wages in terms of the conditions of employment and made a final offer to Numsa.
Dunlop has offered its workers a 5 percent wage increase, which was to have been effective from July 1, provided the agreement was signed by July 31, at the latest.
It also gave notice that it intended to commence with the payment of wages on a monthly rather than a weekly basis and staggered over the next six months.
The trade union has rejected both the wage offer and the change from a weekly to a monthly payment.
Mbuso Ngubane, Numsa’s regional secretary in KwaZulu-Natal, said workers had commenced with a protected strike last Wednesday, “triggered by the stubbornness and big-headed arrogance by Dunlop ruling oligarchy to concede to workers demands for improved conditions of employment and sustainable livelihoods”.
Ngubane said workers were demanding a two-year agreement; a 10 percent increase in the first year of such an agreement and a 9 percent increase in the second year; two-weeks pay bonus; and two-weeks severance pay for each completed year worked.
He added that Dunlop employed a sizeable number of workers through labour brokers, which subjected them to “unbecoming conditions”, and Numsa was also fighting for the permanent employment of these workers.
Ngubane called on Dunlop to return to the bargaining table to resolve the dispute.