Next year's collective bargaining process was going to be very difficult because workers were no longer simply satisfied with a consumer price index (CPI)-linked increase, but wanted a living wage, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) said yesterday.

“Workers are inspired that a real revolution is possible, which will speak to the lives of people,” Numsa first vice-president Andrew Chirwa said at the opening of Numsa’s conference in Johannesburg. “The ‘increase’ failed to change the lives of workers,” he said, adding that in South Africa, and globally, there was a revolution and strikes by workers against low pay, short time and casualisation.

Mineworkers had made it clear that CPI-linked percentage-based increases were meaningless and they had already made gains (in recent mining sector settlements) by translating a demand for R12 500 a month into a rise of about 22 percent.

Simply explaining that their high percentage increase demands were unrealistic in terms of consumer price indices was no longer relevant to them.

Any union, which approached collective bargaining like this in the future would find itself considered irrelevant, Chirwa said.

Workers knew all the economic indicators, but at the same time spent disproportionate amounts of their low income on transport, and they were struggling.

“The CPI does not take into account those realities,” he said.

Even workers in the relatively well-off sectors such as the automotive sector reported that they were battling.

The recent violence in mining strikes in the North West and in farming strikes in the Western Cape, was a reflection of the exploitation people had had to deal with beyond 1994.

“Workers have had no choice but to confront capital directly, beyond collective bargaining. No matter how hard it is hidden, our economics is white and foreign,” Chirwa added.

”If you are to know the colour of poverty, it is black. If you are to know the colour of wealth, it is white. In the unrest that is taking place, that is the same colour.

”If there is one thing we have learned from Marikana, our job is not to tell workers ‘that is not possible’,” Chirwa said.