Ngubane backs Numsa’s ‘reasonable’ demands

2014-07-07 00:00

IN the week the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) took to the streets, regional regional secretary Mbuso Ngubane vowed the union will not back down on its “reasonable” demands.

In an interview with MAYIBONGWE MAQHINA last week, Ngubane took aim at some ANC, SACP and Cosatu leaders, accusing them of wanting to destabilise the union by influencing their structures because the union was a threat to them.

He claimed there was a plan to form a splinter union to be led by former and current members because the ANC feared Numsa won’t endorse it in the 2016 municipal elections.

Q: Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim at Tuesday’s march said he was aware of plans to purposefully bus people to the march to boo and disrupt the event if he said things that were perceived to be anti-ANC. What do you think of this?

A: We are aware that some leaders in the SACP, ANC and in Cosatu want to destabilise Numsa. The unity of Numsa is a threat to them. They want to find a way to influence our structures to pass a vote of no confidence in KZN and ensure they use that against the national leaders.

They mobilise former shop stewards and employees who were disciplined through due processes. What they are doing is to use allegations against leaders in KZN, that the regional secretary abuses union funds and claim that because he is close to the general secretary nothing is done against him.

Our take is that we will focus on what we are supposed to do. Whoever has information on the abuse of union funds can open a case with law enforcement agencies and the Public Protector.

They know they fabricate issues to cause chaos. We know they have a plan B to establish a splinter union. The former president [Cedric Gcina] and some shop stewards are to occupy leadership positions there. The ANC is not happy that Numsa may not endorse any political party in 2016. It [the splinter union] will give an opportunity to deliver Numsa to the ANC.

It has nothing to do with worker interest and improving the quality of service to our members. We think worker control will come to the defence of Numsa.

Q: What is your response to the view that the Numsa strike has an agenda beyond the salary increase demands and is being used to gauge support for a united front, among other things?

A: The SACP and some leaders of affiliates of Cosatu have taken a view that Cosatu should not take to the streets on worker demands. If they do so they will embarrass the ANC. Our politics is about class. Our weapon is to strike when whoever is in power does not deliver … We have collective bargaining agreements [before stating the expired multi-year agreement was now the subject of negotiations].

The united front is a resolution of the special congress. We have already formed the united front, it is not a political party. It is a tool to mobilise the community struggles. We are campaigning for the socio-economic demands of community and workers.

As I talk to you now we are working with Abahlali Basemjondolo, Right to Know campaign and others. The special congress does not say form a political party, but says explore it.

Q: Does your demand for the scrapping of labour brokers not fly in face of the ANC-led government’s attempt to regularise them?

A: The ANC government has failed us. We said ban the labour brokers. They refused. We said we don’t want e-tolls, they continued with them. They want to extend them to other provinces. We reminded them we rejected the Gear under Thabo Mbeki.

We said the NDP is an extension of Gear and that it reverses the gains of the workers. We said they must work for our votes. In the absence of the ANC being biased to the working class and SACP being embedded in a neo-liberal agenda, the special congress said do research about a labour party or movement for socialism and continue to analyse the SACP. It could be a serious threat to the ANC government and hence they begin to confuse everyone.

Q: Do you see your demands for a 12% increase and a R1 000 housing subsidy being met by the employers?

A: We are convinced that the industry can afford to deliver on our reasonable demands. The CEOs continue to take large amounts of money in terms of salary packages and shares. That is clearly a sign that companies can afford the demands we put on the table. We will challenge anyone who say they cannot afford it.

Q: Do you see the employers in the engineering sector doing away with labour brokering while it is still regulated in the country’s labour laws?

A: This is one area we are saying the ANC has been failing us. We are clear that among them are leaders who benefit from labour brokers. As Numsa we are to fight labour brokers, even at the various plants.

Q: Numsa members have been accused of intimidation and violence in Pinetown; will you not lose public sympathy in terms of calls for your demands?

A: In all the areas we are participating in the strike, there are leaders on the ground. The allegation intends to condemn the genuine demands of the workers.

We reject inference that our members vandalised this and that.

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