Johannesburg - It was the “success” of the platinum mine strike that inspired some workers in the metal and steel industry to embark on a strike of their own that started yesterday.
This was the overriding message from some members of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa).
“If workers in the platinum mines can do it, we can also do it,” Mariam Sefora said.
“They (Amcu members) got what they wanted. It’s not like they got nothing. They stuck together right to the end, even though there was death and violence,” said the mother-of-two from Soweto.
Sefora said she was finding it difficult surviving on her monthly salary of R1 100 because of rising food prices, rent and transport fares, among others.
She said she and her colleagues were preparing for a long strike – for as long as it took them to achieve their aim of getting improved wages.
“We are used to starving. We get hungry even when we do work. So it does not matter if the strike takes three or four months. We want this increase,” Sefora said.
Her sentiments were echoed by another Numsa member, Simon Shomolekae.
He has been working in the metal and steel manufacturing industry for 19 years and earns R6 240 a month.
He said this was not enough to support his family and that of his late brother, who died three years ago.
In all, Shomolekae, 44, supports 10 children.
“We are demanding a salary which can meet our daily challenges. The price of food keeps going up,” Shomolekae
“I have more than four accounts. African Bank has handed over my account to lawyers. My wife and I bought a house, and that consumes my entire salary. I can’t pay for school fees or food,” he added.
A sea of red and blue marched through the Joburg CBD as thousands of Numsa members wielded sticks and sjamboks.
The workers presented a united show of force as they toyi-toyied on their way to the bargaining council.
They also chanted slogans expressing their determination to follow in the footsteps of the platinum miners.
More than 200 000 members of Numsa, which is Cosatu’s biggest affiliate, are demanding a 12 percent wage increase across the board. They are also demanding a R1 000 housing allowance increase and the scrapping of labour brokers.
The strike is expected to cripple the production of iron and steel as well as the automotive manufacturing sector.
Addressing the workers, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi lashed out at Numsa’s detractors.
“We are told that we are being irresponsible for embarking on a strike. We are told this is not about workers, but about Numsa’s decisions taken at its last congress,” Vavi said.
Said Numsa spokesman Castro Ngobese: “The bosses have forced us to call this strike and we cannot pre-empt how long it will take. It depends on whether employers will come back to the bargaining table with a reasonable offer that our members will be willing to take.” - The Star