Employers voice Numsa violence concerns in Riah Phiyega letter

2014-07-04 08:23

Concerns of violence in the metals and engineering strike have prompted employers to write to national police commissioner Riah Phiyega twice, says the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of SA (Seifsa).

In his most recent letter to Phiyega, dated Tuesday, chief executive Kaizer Nyatsumba called on police to prepare for a potentially violent strike.

About 220 000 members of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), the majority union in the metals and engineering industries, began an indefinite strike on Tuesday.

Numsa spokesperson Castro Ngobese expressed contempt for Seifsa’s attempt to involve police in the strike.

“Seifsa should not open unhealed wounds. Workers have not forgotten their comrades were slaughtered in Marikana by the police,” he said yesterday.

On August 16 2012, 34 people, mostly striking mine workers, were shot dead at Lonmin’s platinum mining operations in Marikana, North West, in a clash with police.

Nyatsumba wrote: “We would deeply regret the loss of life in the course of this strike and we hope most sincerely the SAPS will work hard to prevent such a possibility.”

The warlike rhetoric of some union leaders led to fears that nonstriking workers would be coerced into joining the strike.

Nyatsumba said Seifsa’s members had reported striking workers behaving unlawfully and, in some cases, violently.

Property had been damaged at companies in Wadeville and Isando on Gauteng’s East Rand since the strike began, he said.

Ngobese said the union did not take such accusations lightly.

“They are just part of a cheap ploy by the employers to undermine the integrity of our struggle for a living wage and improved conditions of employment.”

Numsa members had been disciplined since the strike began, in line with the union’s disciplinary code of conduct, he said.

Nyatsumba said unions had refused to sign a peace accord and this matter was referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.

“Leaders of organised labour have to step forward and accept responsibility for the conduct of their members during a strike,” he said.

Trade union Solidarity, which is not on strike, said one of its members was attacked and seriously injured by strikers at car parts manufacturer Autocast in Port Elizabeth yesterday.

“The member was beaten with knobkerries and the aggressors also stomped on his head,” said Marius Croucamp, head of the metal and engineering sector at the union.

Police could not immediately confirm this.

Ngobese said Numsa was “incensed” by Solidarity’s statement in which the union called for police to intervene.

“We call on Solidarity to join the strike so that we fight together for decent wages for workers in the industry.”

Employers in the metals and engineering industry have tabled a three-year wage offer of between 7% and 8% for different levels of workers in the first year, and CPI-linked increases for next year and 2016.

Numsa wants a one-year bargaining agreement, including a 15% wage increase, a R1 000 housing allowance and the scrapping of labour brokers.

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