Johannesburg - Tomorrow the National Union of Metalworkers begins what could be months of rolling mass action with a nationwide strike over youth unemployment.
Yesterday the union’s leadership said it expected its members to take to the streets in Durban, Joburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, Emalahleni and George.
This was because youth unemployment in South Africa was third only to Greece and Spain for people aged between 15 and 24.
The government recently introduced the Employment Tax Incentive Act to help create jobs for youngsters and those in special economic zones. It offers companies a tax incentive to hire youngsters. But Numsa and many other unions believe the so-called youth wage subsidy is a “false solution”.
The union is opposed to the subsidy as it says the approximately 56 000 people employed so far because of the act may have been hired before its implementation, and that there is no mandatory training. It is also concerned because workers may not benefit from provident funds or similar incomes.
Numsa deputy general secretary Karl Cloete said his union would be joined by fellow federations the National Council of Trade Unions (Nactu) and the Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) as well as civil society groups including Equal Education and the Democratic Left Front.
In addition they could be joined by the eight unions supporting Numsa in its demand for reinstatement of suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.
Asked if members had been balloted on the strike, Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said they had not and workers did not like giving up a day’s wages.
“Workers don’t get paid. It’s a sacrifice. But they have to make choice. Do they want to reverse the hard-won gains? And if not, what will they say to future generations? It’s a situation of the working poor under these conditions,” Jim said.
Cloete said the Numsa leadership was carrying out the mandate from its members as resolved at the union’s special national congress in December.
Tomorrow’s march was the first phase to highlight socio-economic demands.
Every quarter, the union would hold a strike for another demand, Cloete said.
The union would next march over its call to ban the exporting of scrap metal.
“Every quarter we’ll be back on the street. For the nationalisation of banks (and so on). There are seven phases of attack,” Cloete said.
Critics of Numsa’s opposition to the Employment Tax Incentive Act have countered that the union has been a significant beneficiary of subsidies in the automotive industry.
But yesterday Jim hit out at ANC economic transformation committee chairman Enoch Godongwana and party secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, saying
: “It looks as if the philosophy that underpins the legislation is that handouts to the poor (such as social grants) are bad, but (subsidies) are good for the capitalist class.” - The Mercury