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Numsa members march to ArcelorMittal offices despite company’s safety concerns

Arcelor Mittal coil steel.Photo Supplied

Arcelor Mittal coil steel.Photo Supplied

Published May 24, 2022

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National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) members marched to South African steel giant ArcelorMittal's offices on Tuesday to hand over a memorandum of demands.

ArcelorMittal South Africa, however, did not accept the memorandum from the union directly as the company cited safety concerns.

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This came after the Labour Court granted ArcelorMittal an urgent interdict prohibiting acts of violence and intimidation.

ArcelorMittal said the 10-month-long strike action initiated by Numsa has been marred by acts of violence and intimidation of non-striking employees, despite the strike and picketing rules agreed between the company and the union.

Among other things, this interdict:

  • Prohibits the respondents from committing, enticing or encouraging all forms of acts of misconduct in support of their strike action;
  • Requires the respondents to comply with the picketing rules;
  • Requires the respondents to provide the court, within 48 hours and in writing, a plan of action to ensure compliance with picketing rules and to ensure that non-striking employees will not be attacked or intimidated;
  • Orders the respondents to issue a written statement to its members condemning the violence and intimidation.

The company said in a statement that these unlawful acts included the shooting of an employee, who is currently recovering in hospital, multiple cases of assault or attempted assault of non-striking employees as well as intimidation of employees and their families in the workplace, en route to work and at their homes, multiple instances of stoning and attempted damage to employees’ and contractors’ vehicles, and road blockades and other disruptions intended to prevent access to company premises.

“Cases have been opened with the SAPS for investigation of these incidents and arrests have already been made in some cases,” ArcelorMittal’s statement read.

Kobus Verster, ArcelorMittal South Africa’s chief executive, said: “Given that Numsa has thus far not made any reasonable effort to address the unlawful and disruptive conduct of its members and has not demonstrated that it is willing or able to do so, we do not have any confidence that the union will be inclined to or capable of ensuring that the process to hand over a memorandum at our offices will be carried out peacefully.

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“To ensure the safety of our employees and the security of our business premises, we therefore did not permit the handover,” he said.

The Labour Court, however, dismissed an application by ArcelorMittal South Africa to interdict the national strike at all its plants on Friday last week.

Numsa said it welcomed the decision made by the Labour Court and said: “We know that AMSA can afford our demands. They are just being greedy by refusing to compromise.”

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The company said it did offer to receive the memorandum in writing by email or fax.

Numsa’s march went ahead, despite the company’s objection, and the memorandum was handed over via a SAPS officer.

“The company respects the rights of employees to embark on industrial action, but this must be in compliance with the law and having regard for the rights of others,” says Verster.

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“It is extremely disappointing that employees who have been participating in the strike do not have any regard for the law.”

ArcelorMittal South Africa tabled two improved, alternative final offers, subject to certain conditions, for union consideration last Friday:

  • A 6% increase on all remuneration elements, including allowances, standby and medical aid, plus a R5 000 once-off ex-gratia payment, or
  • A 6.5% increase on all remuneration elements, including allowances, standby and medical aid, without any cash payment.

Numsa and Solidarity have indicated they would not move from their previously held demands of a 7 percent increase with a R5 000 once-off cash payment.

“We believe the offers we have tabled in an effort to put an end to the wage dispute are fair and more than competitive when compared to recent agreements in similar sectors,” said Verster.

“The current strike action is unfortunate and not in the best interest of any stakeholders or the business,” Verster said.

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