More than 400 National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa members are striking for wage increases at the Bellville South community centre. File picture: Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)
More than 400 National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa members are striking for wage increases at the Bellville South community centre. File picture: Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)

Numsa members on strike after employers refuse to budge on wage demands

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Oct 6, 2021

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Cape Town – More than 400 workers affiliated with the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) in the Western Cape have joined their 300 000 comrades in a national strike after wage negotiations reached a deadlock with the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa).

During a rally at the Community Centre in Bellville South yesterday, members said the salary increases currently being offered by employers in the engineering sector would not improve their lives.

At the rally, speakers condemned engineering sector employers, saying they benefited from the sacrifices that workers made last year when a standstill agreement was signed, and no increases were given in order to cushion the industry against the ravages of Covid-19.

South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) provincial secretary Andre Adams said the striking workers should prepare for a fight, and that the federation was in talks about how they could support the Numsa strike.

“This is because soon all employers in all sectors will be backing lower wages, especially if they succeed with you.

“It is important that you organise yourselves and that each company represented here should know that you do not touch a metal worker, because a metal worker is the industry.

“As Saftu, we have to support our national office bearers, and all of Saftu is supporting the metal workers. All our workers are supporting you,” said Adams.

In their memorandum of demands to employers at the the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council, Numsa is demanding an 8% wage increase in the first year, and a 2% above-inflation increase in the subsequent two years, but employers only offered a 4% increase for the first year.

Asked what had led to the strike, Numsa national spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said: “We have gone further than employers in compromising on the demands we have made.

’’By the time we came to the figure of 8%, we had compromised on an initial demand, where we moved from 15% to 8%.

“We moved from a one-year agreement to a three-year agreement. They opened with a 4.4% offer, and that’s where they stayed. They haven’t tweaked or shifted, and that is not negotiation,” said Hlubi-Majola.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has, meanwhile, lent its support to Numsa.

NUM Metal Sector co-ordinator Mawonga Madolo said: “Workers in this sector have made significant contributions to keep the industry afloat during the Covid-19 pandemic. They have endured wage cuts and short working hours, among other things.

“Furthermore, these workers were subjected to a zero wage increase for the year 2020/21. With all these sacrifices by workers, on the other hand the employer gained profits during the same period.”

Meanwhile, Siefsa chief executive Lucio Trentini said that they would try as hard as they could “to mitigate the effect of that industry stoppage”, but the industry’s ability to function would be severely impaired if all workers downed tools and employers implemented a lockout.

Trentini said that the sector could not be allowed to go through a strike like the one in 2014 when operations stopped for a month, costing the sector R300 million and the economy, generally, more than R6 billion.

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Cape Argus

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