Union wants rational offer

2014-06-30 00:00

THE nationwide metalworkers’ strike will see the city of Durban brought to standstill when as many as 10 000 workers march on the city hall tomorrow.

The potential economic harm of the looming strike has forced the intervention of the government as around 220 000 National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa members are expected to down tools.

Workers in the metals and engineering sector are demanding a 12% increase, with their employers remaining steadfast with their offering of 5,6%.

Using strength of numbers, the union is calling out industry bosses with the threat of crippling business across the engineering spectrum.

Outside the province, Eskom’s Medupi and Kusile power stations might become bargaining chips when the strike removes 9 000 “essential services” workers from their posts.

The slightest threat to once again delay the switch-on date for Medupi is powerful leverage, but employers in the metals industries seem ready to dig in their heels.

Numsa KZN secretary Mbuso Ngubane said that 10 000 workers would stay away and descend on the city hall. “We are moving from King Dinizulu Park to city hall and we are expecting no less than 10 000 workers. This will have an impact on other value chain industries like in the automotive sector as engineering cuts across many sectors for this particular mass action,” he said.

Ngubane said that their move to a full scale strike was informed by an “unwilling employer”.

“We were unable to secure the participation of the employer at the bargaining table. We have been patient with our demands because we had deadlocked at the outset of negotiations. The employers in this instance wanted to slash the wages and that is ridiculous.”

“It will be a clear message to them to return to the negotiating table with a more rational offer and do so in the spirit in which it should be done. They have not begun to address the social and economic challenges facing our employees. The R100 from 10 years ago is not the same now. The cost of food, electricity and transport has risen,” he added.

Ngubane said the strike had been a last resort. The strike comes as part of the union’s “Living Wage” campaign, according to a statement issued by their national executive.

“Our intention to withdraw our labour in the steel and engineering sector is due to the intransigent attitude of the bosses we are negotiating with,” it reads.

The large scale action and stay away is a result of five phases of failed negotiation and ended with the union lodging a dispute with the with the employer bodies under the auspices of the Metal and Engineering Bargaining Council (MEIBC).

“We have agreed to the decision from our members to embark on an indefinite strike action, beginning tomorrow. This will see more than 220 000 workers belonging to our union embarking on strike action across the country. The decision to embark on the strike action was solicited through a democratic and transparent process, owing to our founding traditions of being a worker-controlled and democratic trade union.”

“This was not an easy decision, but a painful one, since the principle of no work no pay, will be applied by the intransigent bosses. It has never been in our agenda to call a strike; this strike has been imposed on us. Ours is to use the strike, as part of a tactic to exert organisational pressure to the bosses, to return to the table and present an offer acceptable to our members,” the statement says.

Major arterial routes through the city are expected to close as thousands of workers surge towards city hall.

• jeff.wicks@witness.co.za

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