Plastics company’s racism, low wages unacceptable – Numsa

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Allegations of racism and wage disputes have surfaced at Flexible Plastics and Packaging in Pinetown, where the National Union of Metal Workers South Africa says that workers are being treated unfairly.

“Our members have complained that the it is a racist company because the management discriminates between Indian and African workers.

"For example, African workers are not allowed to share the same bathroom facilities as their Indian counterparts at the firm,” Numsa said.

The union also said that workers currently earn R9 an hour, which is not in line with R43 an hour as per the engineering sector.

When City Press contacted the company to get its side of the story, a man came on to the line refusing to give any commentary.

“I’m not going to respond, it’s all confidential information about my company,” he said.

“I know their tactics,” he said, but when asked “whose tactics” he was referring to, he refused to give any more commentary.

“Why should I speak? For what?” he asked.

“With regards to the owner, he is very arrogant and refuses to meet with the union to discuss anything,” regional secretary of KwaZulu-Natal, Mbuso Ngwenya, said today.

Ngwenya also said that there was a clear division between the Indian and black employees as only the black employees are on strike.

“There are 25 employees who are on strike, and the Indian employees are still working. This leaves our members very vulnerable because it is a smaller company,” Ngwenya said.

“We are prepared to declare a war against that company and we are going to report them to the Human Rights Commission for them to conduct an investigation into the company,” he said.

The workers have been on strike for three weeks now, and the department of labour in Pinetown was accused of failing the workers after the matter was reported to them.

Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi said that the matter was taken up two years ago, when employees approached the department for help.

“Numsa has not received any cooperation from the department. The employers have always displayed a racist approach to our workers.

"Numsa is a union for everyone, and we fight against racism in every form,” Ngwenya said.

Chief director of communication at the department of labour in Pinetown, Lungelo Mkamba, said that the matter was never reported by the union itself, but that in August 2016 an occupational and health and safety inspection was conducted at the company.

Some of the findings which came out of the inspection were that the employer failed to ensure that a person with a valid first aid certificate is available, failed to provide hygienic sanitary (toilets) facilities and failed to ensure that the workers were provided with a facility for the safe-keeping of their items.

“Immediately after the inspection, the employer was served with contravention notices.

"The notices expired after 60 days and a follow-up found that the employer was partly complying in terms of the contraventions,” Mkamba said.

Mkamba said that a follow-up inspection would be conducted soon, but that “we urge the union and the workers to report the issues of discrimination and equal pay to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, which has the jurisdiction on these matters”.

“The issue of low wages and overtime payments was not in our jurisdiction since the company was registered with the metal and engineering bargaining council. The council has full jurisdiction to investigate these [issues],” he said.

The department has since learnt that the company has de-registered with the bargaining council.

“If it is not a member of any bargaining council, the department will investigate all the basic conditions of employment issues and take the appropriate action,” Mkamba said.

The employees of another company unrelated to Flexible Plastics and Packaging, Mpact Plastics, which is also located in Pinetown, are also engaging in strike action.

About 140 of its employees say they are being underpaid and want to be made permanent employees.

“They are also demanding an end to labour brokers. Contract staff work just as hard as the permanent staff but they only earn R20 an hour, which is half of the minimum rate in

This afternoon Numsa held a press briefing to confirm that it had met with the management of Mpact Plastics earlier this morning and that negotiations were under way.

Update 27-09-2017

Mpact Plastics has since clarified that it is not in wage negotiations with the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa.

They have since concluded negotiations with the Plastics Negotiations Forum, falling within the scope of registration of the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council.

Numsa regional secretary of KwaZulu-Natal, Mbuso Ngwenya, was unavailable for comment.

 

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