Could the upcoming strike in the metals and engineering sector and Eskom have been inspired by the five-month strike by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and the tenuous victory it achieved?
At a press briefing yesterday, Karl Cloete, the deputy general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), sent a congratulatory message to the courageous mineworkers for securing a decisive and historic settlement. “Indeed, this settlement is not only a victory for mineworkers but for the workers in South Africa as a whole.”
Taking a dig at the ANC without naming it, Cloete said, furthermore, that the platinum strike settlement called on the progressive trade union movement to go back to basics, as opposed to being used by politicians to garner electoral support and parliamentary seats while worker grievances and challenges remain unresolved.
He said a number of seditious statements were uttered by certain politicians to destroy the credibility of the platinum strike as opposed to providing leadership in resolving it.
Instead of tackling the role of mining bosses, these politicians compromised the demands of the workers.
He said some chief representatives of the exploiting class are conjuring up lots of political conspiracies with regards to the looming strike in the metals and engineering sector.
Cloete said some have gone to the extent of making unsubstantiated claims that Numsa is working hand-in-glove with Amcu to sabotage the economy, and is working with imperialist forces to unleash a counter-revolutionary insurrection.
“Such insinuations are so far fetched they can only be spread by those whose brains are crowded or ingrained with conspiracy theories. We call on those making these accusations to expose the role of the mining capital instead.”
The Steel and Engineering Industry Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) has the most to lose if there is a strike in the metals and engineering sector because its members are the big guns in the industry, and therefore keep the federation in business.
Kaizer Nyatsumba, its chief executive and a former editor of one of the Independent Newspapers’ titles, issued two press releases on the strike: one on Wednesday and another yesterday.
Yesterday, he welcomed the concerns of the government about the possible walkout and the possible state intervention. He said employers remained very concerned about it. “We have done everything reasonably possible to ensure that negotiations are concluded successfully, in our sector without the need for anybody to resort to industrial action.
“We have twice made wage offers to the unions, with our last offer being a good one. Regrettably, we are left with no option but to conclude that the unions were always intent on embarking on a strike at the end of the negotiations as a show of force.”
Nyatsumba said some of the unions’ demands – such as the call for employers in the sector not to implement the government-sanctioned youth wage subsidy, and to not use labour brokers – appeared to be political. This suggested some of the unions were in a battle against the government. Last week, Seifsa tabled a three-year wage settlement offer of between 7 percent and 8 percent for different levels of workers in the first year, and consumer price index-linked increases for next year and 2016.
When he made the settlement offer at a facilitated mediation meeting, Nyatsumba said: “We have been involved in this process for almost a full three months now and during that period we have made very little progress [although some would say no progress at all].”
Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Wiseman Khuzwayo.