Comparing worker conditions around the world
The latest worker survey conducted by the International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) which compares workers’ wages around the world, highlights the need for united worker action worldwide, argues Hlokoza Motau.
Why should we compare ourselves to India, Brazil & Australia? Can we successfully argue our case in wage negotiations if we compare ourselves to these countries? Will employers not use the slave-like conditions in countries like India to downgrade our conditions? What about productivity as it differs from country to country?Comparisons are necessary and important so that we do not negotiate for conditions less than in some countries. One veteran trade unionist has this to say on this subject: “˜”We must build a wall of decent conditions and not sell out by reaching bad deals. We must also denounce slave-like conditions wherever they exist.”
ComparisonsThe IMF’s latest Purchasing Power Survey gives the following information in terms of wages in Australia, Brazil, South Africa and India.
Wages per hour
Wages per hour
Wages per hour
The figures clearly demonstrate the strength of labour in different countries but the same pattern of producing inequalities at national level is taking place at international level. Low wages threaten the gains other workers have made elsewhere and do not help in sustaining our development.
Buiding a wall of resistance internationallyCollective bargaining provides a way of building a wall of better and decent conditions world-wide. We should avoid concluding agreements which will weaken the “˜wall’. However, companies have managed to demand and maintain similar conditions in their companies world-wide and force labour to play by the “˜rules’. At Continental in the Eastern Cape, the company demanded that Numsa members must accept normal rates for Saturday and Sunday work as is the case in other countries. Numsa members balloted and voted against this attack on their working conditions. Continental responded by cutting production at the Eastern Cape plant by 830 000 tyres and retrenching 150 workers. Continental went on strike against labour!As labour we will need to build power so that we can force companies to implement similar conditions world-wide through making similar demands and taking world-wide action on these common demands like wages, hours of work and decent working conditions.
Zimbabwe Unions MergeLong and hard work by Numsa’s international department together with four Zimbabwean metal trade unions has finally brought results. On February 16 to 18 2007 the new Zimbabwe Metal Energy and Allied Workers Union was launched. The union is a result of a successful merger of four unions in Zimbabwe; The Iron and Steel Workers Union, Automotive and Allied Workers Union, Ferro Alloys Industry Workers Union and the Electronics and Communication Workers Union.The International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) Africa Region representative, Steven Nhlapo praised the new union saying, “This merger stands as an example to fractured unions all over Africa on the viability of mergers to build greater worker solidarity and create sustainable unionism. Most importantly it is a great step forward for metal workers in Zimbabwe.”The merger was strongly supported by the ZCTU with ZCTU President Lovemore Matombo opening the Congress on 16 February and ZCTU Deputy General Secretary Gideon Shoko closing it on 18 February. The merger is in line with a ZCTU resolution passed at their last congress that called for the merger of small unviable unions reducing the number of affiliates from 36 to 13. “We support the merging of unions in the same or common sectors so that unions become strong and workers are unified,” said Matombo in his opening address. “ZCTU is very happy with the merger of these four unions in Zimbabwe and would like to thank Numsa for seconding one of their comrades who worked vigorously and tirelessly on facilitating the merger.” Numsa has given its support to its sister unions in Zimbabwe guiding them through the merger process, facilitating discussions and assisted in formulating the constitution and will continue to support the newly formed union in areas such as the set up of administrative systems and branch structures. Numsa 1st Vice President, Ben Khoza and International Officer Hlokoza Motau were present at the inaugural congress. Hlokoza Motau called the merger “a real breakthrough for trade unionism in Africa and a real victory for workers. It shows what is possible when leadership puts the interest of workers first. There is no doubt that this is better for the Zimbabwe union members, they now have a stronger, more viable and sustainable union.”Talks in Zimbabwe continue around efforts to unify all unions in the sector. (Thanks to IMF’s Umoja)
Around the world with NumsaZimbabwe Hlokoza Motau, international officer, to attend preparatory meeting of the merger of four unions to form the Zimbabwe Metal Energy and Allied Workers Union.Zimbabwe Ben Khoza, first vice president and Hlokoza Motau, international officer, attended the inaugural congress of the Zimbabwe Metal Energy and Allied Workers Union Kenya Silumko Nondwangu, general secretary, attended the World Social Forum