Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim File photo: Steve Lawrence

Johannesburg - A strike in the engineering and metals sector is inevitable, National Union of Metalworkers of SA general secretary Irvin Jim said on Thursday morning.

He was speaking at a press conference in Joburg.

Planned to start at the beginning of July, the strike will affect workers at Eskom’s Medupi and Kusile coal-fired power stations, among others, which are still under construction.

The construction of the Medupi power station has already been seriously waylaid by protracted labour disputes by the union, and could imperil electricity supply.

The union is demanding a 15 percent wage increase, a one-year bargaining agreement and the scrapping of labour brokers, among others, for the 220 000 workers in the sector.

Eskom, meanwhile, is offering workers 4.3 percent in return, which Jim said was “pathetic” and “far below the inflation rate” and therefore translated into a wage cut.

“We’ve reached a deadlock,” he said.

“The pressure it will exert on the economy will be huge therefore the as a union we are behaving very responsibly. It is time to educate society and to tell employers they have until month end to say they will meet these demands.”

Jim hit out at recent reports that Eskom was looking to spent R500 million on renovations of its head office, as well as the remuneration of its former CEO, Brian Dames of R8.46m.

He said the total remuneration of the power utility’s directors totaled R52m.

“This is daylight robbery of state resources that should be directed to ensuring security of (electricity) supply and offering workers a living wage,” he said.

“Numsa is finally ready to take to the streets and withdraw its labour at an unprecedented level.

“We will not be held hostage by essential service designations and the union will not be responsible for any consequences that arise from workers being forced to strike.”

Meanwhile, as the platinum-strike reaches its fifth month, there are fears that a strike in the engineering and metals sector could place further strain on the economy, with some fears that South Africa could again be plunged into a recession.

But Jim shrugged this off, saying these were the “false alarm bells” of capital.

“None of these spokespersons of capital are condemning the bosses’ continued onslaught against our hard-fought collective bargaining dispensation,” he said.

He said recent comments by AngloPlatinum CEO Chris Griffith that he was “at work…not on strike” and therefore deserved the multi-million rand salary he received, reflected how capital really felt about workers.

“You heard that CEO (Griffith). They regard workers like a yoghurt that has expired. They (workers) can be squeezed like a cranberry juice,” Jim said.

Political Bureau