Shopfloor: Employer puts the squeeze on workers

International Automotive Component, a motor company operating in Ekandustria, Cullinan, not far from Pretoria , is squeezing its 29 employees. When it opened more than 10 years ago, it employed about 100 workers. But as soon as workers joined the union and especially after the new Labour Relations Act of 1995, it further reduced its workforce to the 29 that work there today. Falling in the ex-Kwa-Ndebele, it is not covered by the motor main agreement. Instead, the company has its own set of conditions of employment. Some of these it has negotiated with Numsa, the rest it has unilaterally implemented. Installing closed circuit television (CCTV) in each and every corner on the shopfloor workstations is just one of the unilateral conditions it has implemented. With this it monitors the movement of workers and aims to confine them to their workstations. The employer checks the CCTV report regularly, particularly where the shop stewards work. The workers are not allowed to go to the toilet nor have a smoke break unless it is tea-time or lunch-time. Any worker found either standing outside the toilet or smoking during working hours, is subject to discipline which could lead to dismissal. The action is only directed at African and black workers. White workers are not covered by these conditions. The CCTV has instilled such fear in workers that we are unable to get majority membership to challenge workers’ exploitative conditions. Nor can we get shop stewards even if we do qualify in terms of section 14 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) because they fear they will be victimised or dismissed. Recently in an attempt to further undermine workers’ strength, the company unilaterally implemented a 5% wage increase. As Numsa News went to print, Numsa was in dispute over the company’s refusal to bargain.