What’s up? Long term agreements & incorporating House Agreements

What's up?

Numsa's National Bargaining Conference (NBC) will take place from April 23-25. In the run up to the big event, comrades have written in to say what should be discussed and debated at this important event. These are just some of the contributions.

Long-term agreements – who benefits?

It has been six years now that Numsa has had long term agreements with employers in different sectors. The question remains – who benefits or who benefits more?

…time to implement

Those supporting this arrangement will count a number of good things that come out of these agreements – with the money issue out of the picture, the union can concentrate on other important demands that are not resolved during the actual negotiations and concentrate on implementing those decisions reached.

However, experience has shown that often management drags the issues out until the next round of negotiations. Issues that were meant to be implemented, are not.

…saves money

Another factor is that the union saves a lot of money. It has less NBCs, pays less travel for officials because sector co-ordinators and regional organisers do not attend meetings for items referred to task teams.

But items are left for local officials and shop stewards internally to deal with matters. Often they lack the information to deal effectively with them.

…effect on members

But the key dilemma is that the interest in union matters by members on issues other than money is appalling. Members no longer attend general meetings, shop stewards stop attending structures and the organisation ceases to operate normally until the next round of wage negotiations.

…who benefits

Meanwhile employers are fully supportive of long term agreements because they say 'they can have a stress-free and almost guaranteed strike-free, two or three years.'

On top of that, they know exactly what their wage costs are going to be during that time and can plan strategically around that.

On the other hand, shop stewards' stress level is raised. Issues are parked forever in task teams with no prospect of reaching an agreement before the next round of negotiations.

Committed shopstewards, mostly plant office bearers and the rest of the shopstewards, don't want to attend minor cases. If there is a full time shop steward, they expect that poor comrade to attend to all their engagements even in their departments.

This NBC must debate this issue thoroughly. It must look at different practical challenges and really balance the pros and cons before coming to a decision.

Cedric Gina , shop steward, Hillside Aluminium, Richards Bay

Incorporating House Agreements

As early as 1988, Numsa began discussions about the incorporation of companies covered by their own House Agreements (Iscor, Highveld Steel, Samancor etc.) into the Engineering Main Agreement. This culminated in a decision in the NBC of 1998 to incorporate all house agreements into the main agreement. However this decision has not been implemented.

There is a view in the union that shop stewards in these establishments are hampering the implementation of this decision.

Mbhed'ojikayo Mthembu, shop steward committee chair at Bayside Aluminium disagrees.

"It is unfair to point fingers at shopstewards in this matter." In a polite and serious manner he continues, "we have tried on numerous occasions to raise this matter with members but the questions that we get are hard if not impossible to respond to."

Using his fingers, he counts these questions: 'Do you want us to get increases that are achieved in the main agreement? Do you want us to lose all achievements we have achieved? What will happen to our 90 days sick leave? And the workers most frightening question – 'Do you want us to leave Numsa and join other unions?'" The nodding of comrades from other House Agreements in KZN reveals a similar problem encountered in their plants.

Bonga Ngwane, an organiser in Pietermaritzburg, refers us back to KZN's recent Regional Policy Workshop. Delegates to this workshop said, 'we need to review our implementation strategy'. "We need to involve officials and office-bearers at all levels of the union to explain a number of concepts pertaining to this frightening unknown monster that the members are scared of," says Ngwane.

If this resolution was taken without any coherent plan of action to implement, then it was doomed to fail. Let's go to the NBC and discuss this matter at length.

Cedric Gina, Hillside Aluminium shop steward

Having their say

In the last Numsa News, we asked workers to have their say on what they wanted from employers. This is what some of them said:

We want a living wage as we are still earning R800 per month.

Worker at Zhou's Enterprise , Jet Park , Johannesburg

I want to knock off at 17h15 instead of 18h30 (normal hours) our wages must be increased according to our grades I want to be free at lunch-time and not locked inside the factory gates the whole day until knock-off time to exercise my rights inside the factory, not to be kept silent always, even if see wrong things.

Worker at Apex Leeds , Benoni

Our company must be moved from the motor sector to either auto or engineering. According to our product we do not belong to motor sector, Chapter 3. We manufacture leaf, coil springs, stabilisers etc. and supply them to Daimler Chrysler, Toyota , Nissan, Delta etc.

Worker at Supreme Springs Holdings, Nigel

We want gain sharing – if the employer gains more profit, we must share in it.


I want:

job descriptions to be allowed to use cellphones – some are allowed, others aren't stop harassment all workers must be treated equally, paid properly one day off to go for a TB check-up fair practice amongst workers stop insulting workers training for workers.

Worker at Battery Centre, Bethlehem


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