Greedy employers locking out workers – Zwelinzima Vavi

2014-08-02 14:59

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Employers in the engineering and metals sector who refuse to sign a wage settlement are greedy, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has said.

“Look at the behaviour of some engineering employers who are locking our members out of their factories because these greedy bosses reject the wage settlement brokered by the minister of labour and signed by their colleagues at the bargaining council,” he said today in a speech at a SA Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union regional conference in Bloemfontein.

The National Employers’ Association of SA (Neasa) said it would continue its lockout of workers who participated in the recent metal industry protest.

Six unions in the sector signed a wage deal with most employers after a month-long strike.

Neasa refused to sign the offer, saying it had been sidelined in the negotiation process facilitated by the labour department.

As a result, Neasa, which has 22 members and employs about 70 000 workers, continued its lock-out.

National Union of Metalworkers of SA members in the metal and engineering sector downed tools on July 1, demanding a salary increase of 12%, down from their pre-strike demand of 15%. They then revised their demand to 10%.

They also demanded a R1 000 housing allowance and a total ban on labour brokers.

In terms of the new wage deal, workers would get increases of between eight and 10%, depending on whether they were high or low earners.

Vavi said the main beneficiaries of the country’s 20 years of democracy had been the billionaires who owned industries and the chief executives “who demand parity with their counterparts in the USA and Europe” while expecting workers wages to be benchmarked against levels in sweatshop economies.

“Yet they want to widen these divisions further, always complaining that their workers keep making unaffordable wage demands and mounting attacks on collective bargaining, trade union rights, labour laws and institutions like the National Economic Development and Labour Council and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.

He said employers wanted to declare war, rather than seek peace.

“They want a return to the days when they could use the unemployed in what Karl Marx called the ‘reserve army of labour’ as a battering ram to force workers to work for whatever the boss offers with no union to protect them from exploitation, abuse and racism at work.”

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