On Wednesday 21 April 2004 , 15 workers downed tools in support of two fellow workers in the Compact Cooker Line at Defy in Jacobs.
Management wanted to discipline Jeza and Njilo because they could not produce at the same speed as the team leaders had demonstrated.
The next day, 450 workers joined the strike. The regional organiser had to come and calm the situation.
“The management want to reduce the number of workers on the line without affecting the speed, using the workstudy method,” says Defy shop steward, Vukani Ngema.
This predicament started last year when management painted the lines, changed the jigs and renovated the green areas. “Management feels it’s payback time. They want to reclaim the monies spent on continuous improvement,” says Ngema. “When we ask, ‘what will happen to the redundant workers?’, we are told they will create a pool to counter absenteeism.” Any shopsteward in his right mind does not believe that.
For now, the union has gained the upper hand. The project has been suspended, pending the selection of progressive companies by Numsa shopstewards to conduct the study. No workers will receive warnings.
The question that lingers in our minds is, if these things were happening at another plant other than Defy, a plant with a strong Numsa, who was going to be victorious?