FILE PHOTO: Steel bars are seen during production at ArcelorMittal steel factory in Zenica
JOHANNESBURG – The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) will lead an indefinite shutdown of ArcelorMittal South Africa’s (Amsa) operations amid a strike over labour brokers.

Numsa yesterday accused Amsa, South Africa’s steel giant, of abusing workers through labour brokers, an allegation the company has denied.

The union went on strike on Monday to demand that Amsa permanently place Real Tree Trading and Monyetla Services as employees, with a combined number of about 1000 people.

Numsa’s regional secretary in Sedibeng, Mokete Makoko, said Numsa members had endured poor wages and intolerable working conditions.

“Our members (employed by the contractors) work side by side with workers directly employed by ArcelorMittal, who receive much higher pay and benefits. This needless exploitation is unacceptable,” Makoko said.

He said the union was taking Amsa to task after winning a landmark judgment at the Constitutional Court last year, which strengthened the rights of temporary workers. The judgment meant that casual workers who earned R205 000 a year and less and were employed by labour brokers would become eligible to become permanent employees of the main employer after three months.

“ArcelorMittal has found creative ways to circumvent this ruling, so they can continue to abuse and exploit our members,” Makoko said.

But Amsa yesterday charged that the strike was unlawful and flew in the face of attempts to engage to find an amicable resolution.

It argued that Numsa was demanding permanent placement of Real Tree, which it said was an independently registered service provider that secured contracts from Amsa through a tender process and was not a labour broker.

“The Metals and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC) has confirmed that Real Tree is not a labour broker, but is a service provider for ArcelorMittal South Africa,” it said.

Amsa also said that it believed that Numsa did not follow the provisions of the Recognition Agreement before bringing this demand to the company, adding that the union had previously agreed in various interactions that Real Tree was not a labour broker.

Amsa also said that in October 2016 two Numsa shop stewards were disciplined for misconduct and dismissed, a decision that was upheld by the MEIBC as well as confirmed by an external investigation.

“As far as the company is concerned, the matter has been appropriately dealt with and the investigation is closed.

“Strike action on these issues is not in the best interests of employees, and Numsa members who choose to participate in the unlawful strike are exposing themselves to both legal and financial risks,” the company said.

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