Numsa plan marches on US and EU embassies over tariffs reductions

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) is to stage countrywide general strikes in August to halt removal of industrial tariffs which are expected to open up markets and destroy more jobs and industries.

Along with most vulnerable manufacturing industries, Numsa’s 220 000 members plan to lead work disruptions in major business organizations and mass protest marches on the US and European Union embassies and consulates, on the second week of August.

And most certainly, Numsa’s planned action will put public pressure on transmultinational companies and foreign governments to influence major disagreements in the deadlocked non- agricultural, market access products-related (NAMA) negotiations.

Mtutuzeli Tom, president of Numsa maintained that the union’s campaign has already begun to pay dividends as German’s largest union federation IG Metall successfully influenced its federal government to consider ways to stop conclusion of Doha round of World Trade Organizations (WTO) negotiations at the expense of developing countries.

For the first time in history, also the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) has also entered the fray by lending support to Numsa’s cause by arguing that of all NAMA scenarios the reduction of tariffs will have negative impact on 13 developing countries. These include among others Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Tunisia and Uruguay. It (ICFTU) said that it is better for the NAMA negotiations not to reach bad agreements, which did not contribute to job creation and poverty reduction in the developing countries.

Numsa central committee has expressed fear that the reduction of state subsidies by developed countries and trade tariffs would wipe out the largest industrial base in the country. This will in turn, lead to developed countries re-colonizing the continent, economically.

Ben Khoza, deputy president of Numsa said: ” The blunt reality is that we are facing serious challenges in South Africa’s largest manufacturing sectors and the adverse effect of tariff reductions and state subsidies is that industries will cease to exist and further massive job losses in the largest metal and engineering industries will follow.

Unless we stand up and defend our jobs and create conditions for civil society organizations, labour and governments in the country and outside to support us, or we’ll all get exterminated and doomed.”

Numsa further demand that EU and USA negotiators should make genuine concessions in the agricultural products talks.

Cosatu and Numsa have filed section 77 notices to Nedlac, in which they also demanded that employers in multinational companies agree on a 40 co-efficiency tariff structure, with 15% exemption on imports as adopted by the eleven countries participating in NAMA negotiations.

The planned general strike (on the date to be set by Numsa and Cosatu affiliates) will be preceded by lunch- hour demonstrations and pickets on US and EU embassies throughout the country.

Numsa protest campaign will target multi-national companies that stand to benefit from tariff reductions and those that refusing to give meaningful support for the campaign to address the worst economic challenges faced by the country.

Higher tariffs structure helped developing countries to determine industrial policies which were urgently needed to create quality jobs, and promote development. These also helped developing countries with to pursue industrial policies which were aimed at protecting infant and emerging industries that have the potential to create more new jobs.

Numsa has meanwhile, approached participating countries from the North and South, making an earnest appeal for them to join forces with governments from the South to ensure that the next round of WTO established fair trading system that embraced the needs of developing countries.

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