Numsa strike will be felt all over the economy – Irvin Jim

2014-07-01 16:05

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The nationwide strike by metal workers in the engineering sector is “indefinite”.

National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim said the strike would continue “until employers table an offer that is acceptable to metal workers’’.

Jim made the comments earlier today while addressing about 10 000 workers who turned out in Durban for the union’s nationwide march, which was called as a show of strength on the first day of the protected strike.

Jim and Numsa provincial secretary Mbuso Ngubane led the march from Durban’s King Dinuzulu Square to the city hall, where a memorandum outlining demands, including the 12% wage increase component, was handed over to representatives of the employer body.

A massive police contingent accompanied the marchers, who were highly disciplined throughout, buying drinks and food from roadside hawkers.

Shop owners closed their doors but hawkers kept trading as the massive red-shirted contingent passed down the city’s main street at a snail’s pace.

The strike, in which an estimated 220 000 workers will participate, started this morning after a last-ditch attempt by Labour Minister Mildred Olifant to negotiate a settlement failed last night.

Jim said while workers had revised their initial demand of 15% downwards to 12%, they would not accept anything less than a double-digit increase.

“Double digits are double digits. If employers agree to this and to stop using labour brokers, the strike can be over easily. If it goes beyond next week, it will start to be felt all over the economy. We are extremely concerned about this.’’

However, Numsa spokesperson Castro Ngobese said leaders reverted to the 15% demand because employers had failed to respond positively, Reuters reported.

Other demands include a housing allowance for workers, most of whom qualify for neither RDP housing nor bonds, and the creation of a short-term fund to offset the impact of lower working hours.

The strike, he said, was protected and would continue.

He praised workers present for their creation of strike committees in case the strike was prolonged.

“Numsa is not engaging in economic sabotage. This is a strike. This is about workers fighting for their rights. This is a strike, not a dinner party,’’ Jim said.

The ANC government, he said, had failed to address the issues of an apartheid colonial wage system and could no longer expect unions to endorse it every five years.

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