Engineering workers start strike

2011-07-04 09:40

Several trade unions, representing about 170 000 workers, started a countrywide strike in the engineering sector today to press for better wages.

At the weekend, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) announced that its members would embark on rolling mass action in demand of a 13% salary increase. Employers in the sector were offering seven percent.

“Workers are striking in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, East London and Cape Town,” said Numsa spokesperson Castro Ngobese.

Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal workers would hold demonstrations today, while workers in the Free State and Northern Cape would start their work stoppage on Tuesday.

Numsa, which represents about 120 000 workers, would be joined by five other trade unions, jointly representing at least another 50 000 workers.

According to the Steel Engineering Industries’ Federation of SA’s website, it had received strike notifications from the Chemical Energy Paper Printing Wood and Allied Workers’ Union (Ceppwawu), and the Metal and Electrical Workers’ Union.

United Association of SA (Uasa) senior manager Johan van Niekerk said Uasa, Solidarity and the SA Equity Workers’ Association, would also participate.
He said Uasa members were preparing to march in Johannesburg this morning.

“The employers’ salary offer did not meet our demands,” said Van Niekerk.

Ceppwawu plastics sector co-ordinator Clement Chitja said the six unions were working together.

“We all have the same common demands,” he said.

The Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council today said that while wage negotiations were reaching the “power play stage”, it was confident an agreement would be reached.

“The council has urged all employers to follow the industry-accepted principle of ‘no work, no pay, no discipline’ in the event of protected industrial action.”

The council said it had received notices of intended lock-out action from Seifsa.

The strike started today after the Labour Court’s weekend dismissal of an application for an interdict to stop the strike, brought by the Plastic Converters’ Association.

Seifsa, which according to its website represents 28 employer organisations, was not immediately available for comment.

In a notice posted on the website in May, it said the metal industry’s four-year wage and conditions of employment agreement would expire on June 30.

The agreement covered 9 000 companies and about 348 000 workers.

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