Violent start to Numsa strike

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Copy of ST Numsa 216 Independent Newspapers. Though Numsa members gathered for the march this morning were in good spirits, there have been reports of intimidation of non-striking workers. Pictures: Boxer Ngwenya.

Johannesburg - Incidents of intimidation and vandalism were reported this morning in Joburg as thousands of National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) workers took to the streets in major cities to demand a 12 percent wage increase.

A worker at a metal company in Selby Industrial Park – who asked not to be identified out of fear of reprisals – told The Star strikers had vandalised their building.

“It’s supposed to be a peaceful strike yet they came at about 8.15am and broke the building’s windows and gate. They have a democratic right to strike, but to do something like this is not on – it’s malicious,” he said.

He said the company’s staff were not part of Numsa.

Today about 220 000 Numsa members, which is about half of those employed in the industry, were to embark on an indefinite strike nationally despite an intervention by the government to stop the strikes in the metal and engineering industry from going ahead.

A meeting between Numsa and Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant last night has only angered other unions, who have accused the government of ignoring the spirit of collective bargaining.

Copy of ST Numsa 177 Numsa members sing at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Johannesburg before embarking on a march this morning. Picture: Boxer Ngwenya. Independent Newspapers.

By 10am, hundreds of workers were still arriving at the Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, where they were to march to Marshalltown to present a memorandum to employers.

Alrode in Alberton, home to at least eight steel manufacturing companies, resembled a ghost town this morning, with entrances closed and steel shutters down.

A manager at one steel manufacturer, which makes structures for the mining industry, described the strike as a “double hit”.

The company has been struggling to keep its head above water after the mines stopped ordering products during that industry’s strike.

“There are about 40 employees on strike, we can’t do anything,” he said.

The employees said they expected intimidation to start from tomorrow, once the march was over and if no agreement was reached.

“Sometimes they’re ruthless,” one employee said, recalling a previous strike when their windows were pelted with rocks.

Traffic was to be disrupted in the Joburg CBD today due to a Numsa march.

“Motorists are advised to stick to the eastern side of the CBD between 11am and 3pm,” Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar from the Joburg metro police said.

“The expected 5 000 marchers would turn left into Marshal Street then Simmonds and Anderson where a memorandum would be handed over.”

The march would then return to Mary Fitzgerald Square through Sauer and Jeppe streets.

Motorists were advised to use Rissik, Troye, Mooi and Bree streets instead.

Numsa members are to march in major centres.

Numsa wants a 12 percent salary hike; employers are offering 7 percent.

It also wants labour brokers banned.

Numsa deputy general-secretary Karl Cloete described the pow-wow as a “courtesy meeting”, saying the strike would go ahead.

The United Association of SA, which represents workers in the diamond, motor, manufacturing, transport, mining and engineering industries, said yesterday the government should not be engaging Numsa alone. - The Star



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