National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa members are on the verge of a strike at Bell Equipment’s plants in Richards Bay and Boksburg. with demands that include a R2 000 housing allowance and transport allowance of R1 000, Numsa says.
In a statement this week, Numsa said thee demands were a burning issue.
“We need to make it clear that Bell does not even offer housing allowance or transport allowance of any kind, and yet, other companies, which are part of the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC), companies like Foskor and South32, are offering that to workers,” the union said.
Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said: "We demand that all workers must benefit from the profit share scheme, and for the purposes of this round of negotiations, workers are demanding R2 000 each, untaxed, as a bonus payment.
“We reject the abuse of workers through labour brokers and demand that all workers must be insourced. Workers who are permanently employed by Bell often earn double what the temporary workers are receiving from labour brokers. In some cases, there are workers who have been temporary employees for 10 years or more – this is disgraceful!
“We demand that the company… provide transport for workers when they attend the funerals of co-workers. Workers are willing to contribute 50% to transportation and all they are asking for, is for the management of Bell Equipment to contribute the same,” he said.
Jim said the union and company talks had deadlocked and they were engaged in conciliation through the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.
“If they refuse to put in a better offer at that meeting, then we will request picketing rules, as well as the strike certificate from the commissioner, so that we can mobilise for a total shutdown of Bell equipment. We urge the management to come to the negotiating table with an offer to prevent a strike," Jim said.
The union also launched a personal attack on Bell Equipment CEO Leon Goosen.
“Leon Goosen is greedy and is discriminating against workers. At the heart of the dispute is that Bell Equipment and its management are greedy. They made a fortune this year, and Goosen even communicated to workers that they have achieved ‘encouraging sales growth’.
“The management has shared the profits through bonus payout but only to management and white-collar workers in the office. Not a cent was given to so-called ‘blue-collar’ workers, who, by the way, are actually the ones who are responsible for the positive financial performance which the company achieved,” he said.
Jim said that according to media reports, Bell Equipment’d profit after tax increased by 63% to almost R639 million, which resulted in a R86m or so payout to shareholders.
“Bell is valued at about R1.6 billion in the JSE, and it generates almost 60% of its revenue from South Africa while also selling heavy machineries such as dump trucks and forklifts internationally, including in Europe, Asia and… to the rest of the African continent.
“Goosen should be ashamed of himself for being so greedy and selfish, and for gross exploitation of workers. His actions are provoking workers to mobilise for a total shutdown of Bell Equipment at both plants. Only a crippling strike can remind management who the real creators of wealth are!” he said.
In a statement, Bell Equipment said: “We categorically deny these allegations, which are of a personal nature and would like to emphasise that we are following the formal process, which is currently with the MEIBC.
“This is the appropriate forum for resolving any disputes, and we will not argue the merits of the case via the press. We remain committed to upholding our values of fairness and transparency and are confident that the formal process will bring about a just resolution,” it said.