Close to 20 000 steel and engineering workers to march over wages.

DATE : 27 July 2004



Close to 20 000 workers in the steel and engineering companies will embark on a one day protest march on Thursday 29/07/2004 in Johannesburg. This comes after the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the Steel Engineering Industry Federation of South Africa (SEIFSA) failed to resolve the wage dispute over the last two months. The union has issued a 48 hour notice to strike yesterday and has received a certificate to resume industrial action from the Engineering Bargaining Council. The protest march is part of the union effort to compel SEIFSA to meet the 12% wage demand. The employer federation has improved the wage offer from 4,7% to 7,1% in the meeting of the 23rd July 2004. The union noted the new wage offer and workers are still discussing whether to accept or reject the wage offer. The parties are meeting again on Friday 30/07/2004 to consider each other’s proposals. The protest march will commence at Library Gardens corner President and Simmonds streets, it will proceed to Simmonds street and arrive at Metal house 42 Anderson street where a memorandum will be handed to SEIFSA. Workers will start gathering at 10h30.

The protest march will be overwhelmingly supported by workers. The employer organization has been very slow to act and ultimately hindered progress in the wage talks. SEIFSA has been acting in aberration to improve the wage offer. The protest action is part of the union endeavour to demonstrate workers bitterness with low wages in the industry. Lower wages are a recipe for disaster and have a deleterious impact on workers in the industry. The fact of the matter is that SEIFSA continued with their rhetorical talk and failed to improve the wage offer well in advance.

What is most strange is that in the face of dismal employment decline in the industry, employers continued to give workers lower wages. Any system that is designed to grow the sector in the final analysis must be judged on the extent to which it pays workers good wages and creates jobs, rather than how it escalates the level of unemployment. The industry does not create added value jobs.

Our members were promised sustainable employment, but this has not been realised. Instead there has been a growth of casual, temporary, contractual and outsourcing of the jobs. This has been exacerbated by low wages. The consequences have been devastating to our workers. Workers have been under constant attack in the industry and asked to tighten their belts hoping for sustainable jobs. With the unemployment levels estimated at above 30% of the total labour force, we have genuine reasons to be concerned. But what has been painfully clear is that workers are losing jobs on daily basis in the steel and engineering sector.

In the last two months, SEIFSA has not found the most appropriate measures of mitigating the consequences of low wages. And so, from the union’s perspective, it makes no commercial sense to offer low wages, shed jobs to cut costs and increase the profits of the company at the direct expense of workers.

For more information or interviews contact Dumisa Ntuli at (011) 689-1700 or 0829737282.