On the ShopFloor

Sporadic Strikes erupt in Kzn

Woody Aroun

Numsa regional secretary Petros Ngcobo and his team of oganisers had a busy day on March 17, when workers in two big workplaces in the region downed tools and demonstrated their anger against their managements’ stubbornness and dillydallying in dealing with their grievances.

Smiths Manufacturing workers vented their anger over management’s refusal to grant them an allowance (R3 – R3.85) that was unilaterally awarded to section leaders.

At Toyota SA, workers protested against the company’s continued use of an unpopular caterer (Fedics) to manage the company canteens.

Although the strikes were unrelated, workers at both these plants were determined to win some concessions for disputes that have lingered on while managers played the proverbial fiddle.

Now we all know what happened to Rome when Nero played the fiddle – Rome burnt!

Likewise Numsa workers are beginning to lose their patience with managers that seem to care less about workers’ problems and more about shareholders’ profits.

Given the urgency of the situation, Toyota SA summoned the directors of the catering company to an urgent meeting in an attempt to resolve what had already become a very indigestible issue.

Meanwhile workers returned to work, but their demand for Toyota SA to terminate the contract of the catering company still stands.

According to Ngcobo the workers and shopstewards have agreed to appoint a committee to investigate the matter and report on progress. Until the canteen issue is resolved, goodbye bon-appetit!

At Smiths Manufacturing, management came out with guns blazing. The Human Resources (HR) division wasted no time in issuing an ultimatum to workers to return to work and threatened to sue the union for loss of production, costs etc.

Work stoppages at Smiths are not something new. Workers allege that the company employ some of the most conservative HR people in the business and that the company has a poor track record when it comes to implementing workers rights such as training and employment equity.

Bonga Ngwane, the local Numsa organiser admits that there are numerous other grievances at Smiths that management has not adequately addressed – the issue of shutdowns, separation of the plastics division, etc.

Smiths Manufacturing, like many other companies, prolongs grievance issues in long drawn out discussions with the company’s middle management that produce little results. This frustrates the union and its members. Company bosses anticipate that the union will eventually retreat and forget about the ir grievances.

But strikes – legal or illegal – remain the most powerful weapon in the hands of workers and no amount of wishful thinking will make them go away. The answer to many industrial disputes lies in constructive dialogue and a willingness to compromise.

A thousand and one interdicts will not stop workers from demanding justice in the workplace.

***

Rules of Engagement

What do you do if you are approached by Company Security guards who want to take you away for questioning. The answer is: know your rights and refuse to go unless your rights are protected and you are accompanied by a shop steward. Company security guards are also employees like us and are required to know the following rules:

1. They are not allowed to remove you from your workplace and take you by yourself to an isolated place to question you. As without witnesses they can do exactly as they please. No employee should ever be taken to a security lock up without the Union being advised immediately.

2. You are not required to make a statement. If they force you either physically or warn you that you will be disciplined if you do not make a statement, they are obtaining evidence under duress, which is inadmissible and illegal. No statements should be made without a representative. Tell them that. If they refuse to allow you to call a representative, walk out. They cannot restrain you other than physically locking you up, tying you up or grabbing you in which case they are committing assault. Remember that these dudes are not cops, they do not have rights of arrest or detention.

3. You must be allowed representation. These are usually part of the Company Policies and Procedures and incorporated into Labour Law. The reason for representation is to ensure that you get a fair hearing and to provide a witness if later they misconstrue what was said or done.

4. In any hearing the onus is on the Company to prove the misconduct. If they have no evidence, there is no case. If you do not make a statement they cannot use it against you. If they have evidence from other employees they must bring those employees as witnesses so that their testimony can be challenged in cross-examination. That is why a hearing must take place

5. There must be a rule. If you are charged with something that is not common law or covered by the Criminal Procedure Act or any other law, then the Company must have a rule and the rule must be available. These rules or Policies and Procedures have to include the disciplinary code. Is it available? If they are perpetrating an unlawful interrogation you are unlikely to be shown the rules.

6. If they threaten to kill you, your life is more important than their interrogation. Do whatever they want you to do. Sign whatever document they want you to sign. It is not worth your life to resist death threats. Remember everything they say and report it. If there is no representation allowed, the death threat is the most likely method they will use to break you down and force a false statement out of you. The latest death threat is “We will put you in Westville Prison where you will get fucked and get AIDS”.

Koevoet apartheid cops are still with us, only now some are undercover in many corporate security structures. You all know what they did in the past. Do not allow them to do it in the future.

Greg Stanley, Toyota Numsa representative

***

STOP PRESS BLOW TO WORKERS

The highest court in the land, the Supreme Court of Appeal, has dealt a huge blow to all workers in this country. It has refused to allow Numsa to appeal against a judgement that ruled against workers.

On October 18 2000 , workers at Fry’s Metals were told that they were retrenched after they refused to accept a new two-shift system.

Since then Numsa has been to every court in the country to try and reinstate the workers arguing that they were unfairly dismissed.

The only hope now is to go to the Constitutional Court .

More in the next Numsa News.

***

Why are our fathers’ hard earned monies decided by the courts?

Judy Madumo

Seifsa, the employer body in the manufacturing and engineering sector, has decided to take the unions to the Labour Court over the apportionment of the pensions/provident funds surplus of about R13 billion. They want the distribution to be in accordance with the LRA.

Employers want to wring even the last penny from the Metal Industry Pension Fund. Greed has taken its toll.

The unions want the surplus to be dealt with according to the Pensions Fund Act [PFA].

If the LRA is used, there is nothing that says that distribution must take place in a particular way. The trustees [employer and employee] and bargaining team will use the agreement as a guiding document to decide who gets what and how much.

And the implications are that employers will take away a huge 50% and the workers who are currently employed will get the rest of the 50%.

Everyone who once worked in the industry will be ignored – no money, nothing. Those who are currently in the employ will instead get more money and this will be equally shared amongst them.

Distribution through PFA

However, if the PFA is followed a clear distribution formula must be followed. The former members, active members and pensioners must be the first to be considered. Members who joined the Fund after 1991 cannot claim the R11 billion. The employers are the last ones in the line to receive after workers have received their share of the surplus.

According to Nduru, an independent actuary at MIBFA, “using this formula, employers will get about R2 billion in surplus and the rest will go to the members of the Fund”.

“Workers must not pin their hopes too high because even if the distribution goes the PFA route, we are looking at people getting about R500, with some getting R800 and others getting R1200. Workers must not even think about buying cows or taxis,” says Lucas Mthiyane, Engineering Sector Co-ordinator.

Menu