On The Shopfloor: Apartheid Tactics?

Apartheid Tactics?Philip Sapud

In an unprecedented attack on worker rights, police in the Western Cape used excessive force on around 5000 marching members of Satawu, in Cape Town’s city centre on May 16.

In scenes reminiscent of the old apartheid days, police members arrested and shot at marchers as they dispersed after handing over a memorandum to a representative from the Department of Labour.

According to an eyewitness the march proceeded peacefully until some criminal elements started smashing cars and shop windows, this in full view of the police who could see who the culprits were, but who only reacted when the crowd dispersed.

When Tony Ehrenreich, Cosatu Provincial Secretary and Evan Abrahamse, Satawu Regional Secretary, tried to intervene when police started shooting at the security guards, they were both arrested together with 37 others.

Now that the city is being run by the Democratic Alliance, maybe Cosatu will see more of these strong arm tactics. Just after this march, permission for Cosatu’s Cape Town jobs and poverty march was withdrawn.

As Numsa News went to print, parties were still trying to secure an agreement to end the almost three-month old strike.

Employer fills up his pockets, workers’ pockets are empty! Peter Thobejane

Despite the country’s legislation that is meant to protect workers’ rights, workers’ suffering is still a reality in a Chinese-owned shoe company in Wadeville, Ekurhuleni.

Eighteen year old Nosipho says she works a 6-day week with no overtime and takes home R120 at the end of the week. The lucky ones receive R160 if they have produced 960 shoes but this target is very difficult to achieve.

“We are not given a contract of employment that stipulates the terms and conditions of employment, nor are there any benefits,” Nosipho says. Maybe that’s why there are no permanent workers and workers come for three to six days but after that they leave because they are treated so badly.

Workers are forced to walk 10km to work because they have no money to pay for transport. “This is our government. We were hoping that things would change after 1994. But things are worse,” she said. Nosipho appealed for Cosatu’s help and wants the labour department to send inspectors to investigate their conditions. She is unperturbed by the possibility that her company could be threatened with closure by the labour department. “It will be the right decision. Then the right people must come and open it again. We are tired of working for an employer who is just looking to see how they can fill up their pockets!”

More profits and poor working conditions is the language of globalisation championed by the transnational companies. We must prepare our soldiers to face this monster because they are coming to get us.

The role of black managers in Numsa organised industriesMlungisi Tikolo

The role of black managers in our companies needs to be debated. More especially so in view of our government’s Asgisa programme of trying to halve unemployment by 2015.

Sadly the behaviour of some black managers can best be defined as unpatriotic, reactionary or downright counter-revolutionary.

Many shop stewards agree that black managers seem to enjoy dismissing their fellow black workers. They have a tendency of informing the union representative only when a worker is about to be dismissed or issued with a final written warning. Clearly their aim is just to legitimise the process instead of arresting the misdemeanour earlier.

And unfair dismissals and unfair labour practices are flooding the Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration [CCMA]. CCMA Statistics for the period April 1 to December 31 2003 show that 82% of the cases referred to CCMA were for unfair dismissals while 7% were unfair labour practice disputes. Matters of mutual interest, severance pay, other collective bargaining matters and all other cases made up the remaining 11%.

Numsa is the second biggest affiliate in Cosatu. Clearly our members are on the receiving end of this black on black backlash. As a result of the manager’s attitudes, our members often relegate our pursuance of Employment Equity Act and related legislation to the bottom of the agenda. Their argument is why should we advance the interests of black managers when their behaviour is worse than that of their white counterparts.

At least one can appreciate where the white managers are coming from, unlike our black brothers who are from a working class background. It may well be that in their quest to be accepted and gain promotion, they are prepared to step over the carcasses of their brethren. If that is the case, then it is a sad day for the metal workers in this country.

But there are some exceptions. One is the late Zakes Zungu who was working at Bosch in Brits. Former shop steward Zakes Nkomo described him as a champion of transformation and of being working class biased in his dealings with Numsa and our members.

I call on different comrades from different plants to share their experiences on this issue. I further challenge black managers to engage in this debate and hopefully prove my analysis wrong. Black managers can no longer hide behind the old argument that they are only doing their job 12 years after a democratic dispensation. Apartheid policemen hid behind that argument and look what happened to this country.

Alternatively join the workers in Numsa and help to transform our workplaces for you as well.

Marching for employment equity and trainingWorkers at Andrew Mentis in Johannesburg are frustrated at the lack of progress with regard to employment equity and training.

“Last year we refused to sign the company’s workplace skills plan [WSP],” says shop steward Motsamai Ponya. Although there is some progress on employment equity in middle management, with just one black person in the administration department and none in the sales department, workers feel that it’s time the company addressed the issue in these departments.

“Last week there was a vacancy in the sales department. They wanted a person who could speak three African languages. But they took a white lady,” says Ponya.

Their weekly marches will continue says Ponya.

On strike for safe transport Workers at Middelburg company Expectra 52 have been on strike since the beginning of May. They are demanding safe transport at night after a worker was attacked while walking home at night.