Numsa meets to curb strike violence

2014-07-06 15:00

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) has this weekend called its strike committee to a meeting to “sensitise” members against tolerating violence during their strike.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim warned that ill-discipline among Numsa members – who have caused the strike to take a violent turn – will give ammunition to employers and Numsa detractors, and undermine the legitimacy of the strike.

Police spokesperson Lungelo Dlamini said 26 Numsa members were arrested in Gauteng on Friday for intimidation, public violence and malicious damage to property. He added that 19 of the protesters were arrested after they broke the gate of a company in Elandsfontein on the East Rand.

In an interview with City Press, Jim said Numsa was “the most hated union in the country today” and the members’ failure to act in a revolutionary and conscious manner would fuel the “forces of destruction who want to liquidate us”.

He said Numsa had received reports of violence, vandalism of property and damage to cars by members since Thursday. Numsa’s leadership in Gauteng had met to “quell any forms of violence”.

“In fact the members need not just to defend their strike with discipline but guard against agent provocateurs with a different agenda. Numsa is being stigmatised. Our detractors would want to portray that we wanted to strike for the sake of striking. That Irvin Jim is a problem and that Numsa is a problem.

“The negotiations on the strike started in March. There is not a single employer who can claim they weren’t aware because we have been in negotiations for three months and they decided not to take the negotiations seriously,” said Jim.

More than 220?000 workers in the metal sector went on an indefinite strike on July 1 demanding a 15% wage increase, the banning of labour brokers, the rejection of the youth wage subsidy and the review of “short-time” practice by companies.

“The time has come [to remove labour brokers] just like we did in the auto industry and the tyre industry,” said Jim.

Numsa and the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) met on Thursday to discuss their revised offer. Seifsa approved a 10% wage increase for H-level employees in 2014, followed by 9% and 8% increases in 2015 and 2016, respectively, as well as an 8% increase for A-level employees in 2014 and 7% increases in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

Numsa rejected the offer saying “our members always lose when we secure these three-year agreements. They become victims because each and every year they have no control of the price of petrol, the food price and transport costs. It’s a principle of double digits and as a union we very are clear on that,” said Jim.

Buts Seifsa CEO Kaizer Nyatsumba said Numsa’s refusal to accept the revised offer was because of “patently political demands about which we can do nothing”.

Nyatsumba said Numsa had taken up its opposition to labour brokers and the youth wage subsidy with national government and failed. He said they were now trying to impose these objectives on employers. He said Numsa approached the negotiations with a political agenda, “which it wanted to wage through the guise of negotiations on wages and conditions of employment”.

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