Workplace: Grappling with Workplace Restructuring

The Numsa workshop on restructuring held in mid-July, came during war talk within Numsa and Cosatu about the proposed agreement at the WTO to cut tariffs on industrial goods by half and as a consequence, increase the flood of cheaper products into South Africa.

The many activities threatening jobs and working conditions resulting from workplace restructuring have left organisers and shopstewards gasping for air. The 50 shopstewards and organisers gathered in Johannesburg, immediately set about assessing the impact of the restructuring in the last 10 to 20 years. It has left its mark on our industrial areas by reducing employment and working conditions as well as impacting negatively on people’s quality of life.

Ukuxakazisana nokuhlelwa kabusha kwendawo yomsebenziEmhlanganweni wokufundisana weNumsa wokuxhumana ngendlela yokuphendula emhlanganweni wokuhlela kabusha, abahlanganyeli bavuma ukuthi izinkampani kufanele zibanike imininingwane ephelele.

Izithunywa zanquma ukwabelana ngolwazi, ukuzungezisa imiklomela ohlelweni lakabusha, ukusebenza ndawonye nezinhlangano ezidlelana nazo kwamanye amazwe, ukuqinisa imfundo yenyunyana yezohwebo ngokuhlela kabusha, ukwenza uhlu lwamagama kukhompyutha, ukwenza inhlangano enamandla lapho kusetshenzwa khona kanye nokuphatha kokuqapha izinkampani eduze.

Sometimes this impact has been assisted by our own members! “One worker was awarded R30 000 for making a suggestion that cost two members their jobs,” a shop steward told the meeting. He went on to state that “we therefore cannot also trust shopstewards because companies are prepared to pay R1 million for suggestions to improve efficiency.’

Changes at labour’s costThe broad changes which have taken place have assisted the companies to survive the market but at labour’s cost and without workers sharing in the benefits. Instead executives with their benefits and huge perks have been the main beneficiaries. As we assessed the sufferings we also heard of the brave battles around outsourcing, labour brokers, wage cuts, technology, varying of standards, kaizen, multi-tasking, temporary labour, etc.

Participants spoke of battles against management for failure to consult properly, refusing to divulge information, unilateral changes to production, putting pressure on workers to accept changes, tactics to win the hearts and minds of workers and the use of workers’ ideas to restructure them out of their jobs.

Boitseko ba tlhophiso botjha ya sebaka sa ho sebetsaWekeshopong ya naha ya Numsa ya ho hokahanya mokgwa wa ho arabela wekeshopo ya tlhophiso botjha, banka-karolo ba dumellane ka hore dikhampani di lokela ho fana ka dintlha tse felletseng.

Baromuwa hape ba ile ba etsa qeto ka kabelano ya lesedi, ho be le dikgau tse mabapi le tlhophiso botjha, ho sebetswe mmoho le mekgatlo e meng ya basebetsi e leng dinaheng tse ding, ho matlafatswe thuto le tlhophiso botjha ya mokgatlo wa basebetsi, ho hlongwe databeise, ho botjwe mokgatlo o matla moo ho sebetswang teng, mme ho lebelwe ka hloko tsamaiso ya dikhampani.

Workers under labour brokers like slaveryOne delegate likened the situation of workers under labour brokers to slavery “as human beings are sold to others”. The harsh conditions facing workers on the shopfloor forced the delegates to resolve to resist the worsening of conditions especially to resist wage cuts at all costs. Instead shop stewards must demand information, do thorough planning of all types of restructuring, push for training and re-grading of members and ensure the health and safety situation is improved.

The delegates also resolved to share information, circulate awards on restructuring, work together with sister unions in other countries, intensify trade union education on restructuring, set up a data base, build a strong organisation on the shopfloor and monitor management of companies closely.

Hoe om herstrukturering by die werkplek te hanteerBy “˜n nasionale Numsa-werkswinkel om “˜n manier saam te stel om op herstrukturering by die werkplek te reageer, het deelnemers ooreengekom dat maatskappye gedetailleerde inligting hieromtrent moet verskaf. Die afgevaardigdes het ook besluit om inligting te deel, om toekennings rondom herstrukturering in die rondte te stuur, met sustervakbonde in ander lande saam te werk, opvoeding in die vakbond omtrent herstrukturering te verskerp, “˜n databasis saam te stel, “˜n sterk organisasie op die fabrieksvloer uit te bou en om die bestuur van maatskappye fyn te monitor.

“The employers are ahead of us,” commented one delegate. “The union is facing a mammoth task,” he said as he surveyed the list of tasks written on the sheet.

Future plansThe union will hold workshops and meetings in the next six months taking forward the issues identified in this workshop. However workers and shopstewards need to be vigilant in monitoring changes at company level especially in production, monitoring mismanagement, assessing the benefits and demanding a share in benefits. Building the organisation on the shopfloor and organising vulnerable workers were important actions to take to defend workers against the restructuring onslaught.