Dear Judi has been absent from your pages for a while now. To compensate we are giving over two pages this time for your problems and her solutions! Keep on writing!
Dear Judi Opsoek na die ware identiteit in jou vakbond NumsaAs ‘n werker by ‘n vakbond aansluit, onderneem hy/sy om gereeld die lidmaatskap gelde te betaal en die vakbond onderneem daarinteen om sekere dienste te verskaf. So kom ‘n kontrak tussen jou en jou vakbond tot stand. In sekere omstandighede kan ‘n lid in ‘n hof skadevergoeding eis van sy vakbond wat traag reageer op sy lede se klagtes. Daar is ongelukking geen organisasie of ombudsman waar klagtes teen ‘n vakbond ingedien kan word nie. Hoe kan jy jou ongelukkigheid direk aan die uitvoerende hoof of president van die vakbond rig as jou regte op vryheid van spraak aan bande gele word. Tree vakbonde vandag nog in belang van werkers op of volg hulle ‘n spesifieke idiologiese politieke agenda na? Pas vakbonde by die verandere omstandighede aan? As daar in beginsel legitieme verwagtinge by partye in plek is, hoe afdwingbaar is jou regte as benadeelde in so ‘n situasie? Die vraag is, is jy as werker en lid nog in beheer van jou vakbond? Word werker leiers nie dolebewus deur die betaalde amptenare gemanipuleer nie. As werkers durf waag om amptenare aan te spreek wat hulle wan gedrag of swak werksprestasie skuldig maak, word die werkers deur die amptenare verdag gemaak en beskuldig van dislojaliteit. Hoe voel werkers oor hul regte in hul vakbond, hulle is per slot van sake die eienaars van hul vakbond, die werkgewers in die verband en moet die betaalde amptenare se diensverhouding teenoor sy werkgewer reg geskied.In plattelandse gebiede vind ons ‘n tendens dat werkers nie meer passief aan vakbond bedrywighede deel neem nie. Wat werkers in die platteland na vakbonde trek is dienslewering. Dit is in wese die hoof doel en primíªre taak van ‘n vakbond. Het ons vakbond ‘n Suid-Afrikaanse identiteit? Werk ons vakbond in die rigting van ‘n identiteit wat rondom gemeenskaplike demokratiese waardes gebou word soos vervat in die grondwet? ‘n Vakbond moet ‘n kosmopolitaanse nasionaliteit het wat ‘n gevoel van samehorigheid prikkel en ons almal laat omsien na gemarginaliseerdes en waar jy weet jy is ‘n militant. Die belangrikste vrae is of ‘n sterk identiteit binne Numsa nodig is en indien wel hoe dit gebou kan word. Dis nie moeilik om ja te antwoord op die vraag nie. Iewers moet daar gemeenskaplikheid samehorigheid en trotsheid op jou vakbond wees. Daarsonder is die konflik potensiaal in ‘n multikulturele vakbond soos ons s’n te groot. Dis by die “hoe” vraag waar die knoop líª. Dis gevaarlik as leiers hul idees van identiteit aan vakbond lede opdwing, maar leiers kan wel baie doen om solidariteit in die breedste sin van die word te help vorm. Van ons leiers en amptenare kry ons hopeloos te veel gemengde seine, uitsprake wat soms verenigend werk, maar sooms so verdelend is. Daar is toenemende begrip vir die multikulturele aard van ons vakbond en die wete dat as dit reg gehanteer word, dit nie noodwendig verdelend hoef te wees nie. Terselfdertyd is daar daaglikse voorbeelde van rassisme in ons vakbond. Etniese mobilisering steek kort-kort kop uit en in sommige groepe is daar tekens van ontrekking aan die breer werkinge van die vakbond. As al hierdie botsende kragte goed bestuur word en as die wil van ons kamerade goed bestuur word, kom die Numsa waarna ons soek uiteindelik daaruit te voorskyn.Dis die positiewe scenario. Aan die negatiewe een moet ons liewers nie dink nie.Freddie Brand, shop steward, Supaquick Beaufort West
Translation of Freddie Brand’s letter:Write and tell us what you think of Brand’s letter!An employee joins a trade union and pays subscriptions and the Union then provides a service. A contract is therefore entered into. But what do you do if a Union fails to deliver service? In some instances a member can claim damages in court. There is unfortunately no organisation or ombudsman where you can lodge your complaints. How can you go directly to the President of the Union if your freedom of speech is curtailed? Do unions still act in the interests of their members? Do unions adapt to the changing circumstances? Are the members still in control of their union? Are union leaders not manipulated by the paid officials? If a member complains of poor service by staff s/he is being told they are disloyal by the paid officials. Members are the owners and employers of the union and officials must do their work properly. In rural areas, members are no longer passive. What draws them to unions is service delivery. This is the primary task of the Union. Does our Union have an identity around common democratic values as contained in the Constitution? A Union must have a cosmopolitan nationality which should focus on the marginalized and be militant. There must be commonality and pride in your Union. You must develop a strong identity, because without it there is potential for conflict in a multi-cultured organisation such as ours. It is dangerous for leaders to force down an identity on the members. They should rather foster greater unity amongst members. The leaders send too many mixed signs and comments which are meant to unite but just the opposite happens. There is understanding for a multi-cultured Union such as ours and if handled properly, there is no reason why it should be seen as dividing us. At the same time, there are examples of racism on a daily basis in our Union. Mobilising on an ethnic basis is being observed and in some groups you see signs of withdrawing from the broad workings of the union. if all these conflicting powers are well-managed and the will of our comrades are well-managed, the Numsa we are all looking forward to will be realised. This is the positive scenario. Of the negative one, we must not even think about!
Dear Comrade FreddieThe issues that you are raising are significant because even the CC in its December 2006 meeting expressed a resolution for the union to address itself to the heart of these challenges. It said we should once again locate “the history of Numsa so as to examine where we come from, who we are and an understanding of the character of Numsa when it was established and where we find ourselves in the current conjuncture and our ideological perspectives…” This was against the background that we seem to be doing things past each other in the organisation. The principle of majority rule is desisted when it comes to implementation. Therefore the CC asserted that we should inculcate “a sense of revolutionary discipline”. You may wonder what relevance this has with the questions that you raise. Membership of this organisation has never been on any “˜service’ contractual terms. What I know is that the principles and aims of the Constitution of this union are binding on its membership. Points (c) to (e) of the preamble say:We must:(a) ensure that all levels of our Union are democratically structured and controlled by the worker members themselves through elected worker committees;(b) encourage democratic worker leadership and organisation in our factories and in all spheres of society;(c) reinforce and encourage progressive international worker-to-worker contact so as to strengthen the worldwide society of metalworkers. You don’t have to go directly to the President of the union because through your own factory shop steward committee, the constitution compels you to control your organisation. The “˜Dear Judy Page’ only serves as a last resort to ensure that the intentions of the Constitution are observed. The CC wants to develop a new revolutionary cadre who does not see and engage issues in the abstract but someone who in the process of sharpening his/her tools of analysis understands why s/he has to serve, sacrifice and suffer not only inside the gates of the factory but in all sites of struggle. Someone who will roll up their sleeves and work selflessly to give meaning, focus and glory to the life of the organisation, to restore the rich culture, tradition, style and taste. Forward to the working class struggle!
Dear Comrade JudyWe regret to bring to your attention how we’ve been treated for all these years. We’ve been crying for nearly 25 -30 years for our machines to be graded under the then National Pipe Flanges until now that it is Macsteel Flanges nothing has changed and doesn’t look like there will be any change for the good. The following are not practised in our gigantic company: Job description, grades and annual shutdown, skills and development, no monthly meetings, no relationship between workers and employers. We are working one of the worst shifts our country has ever had 14:30 -23:00 without transport and when we ask, the responce is “we have been using this system for more than 20 years and there is no way we’ll change it”. Two of our active s/stewards were fired in February 2007 for no reason. In 2006 about 19 workers left the company including those fired haphazardly. Five to 10 of our employees are thinking of resigning from the organisation as our employer is now more of a bird of prey and we are like chicks that are not underneath their mother’s wings and yet we got one. Please help us. Workers from Mac Steel Flanges in Springs a division of MacSteel Group. Dear ComradesA copy of the minutes of the meeting held on June 27 2007 between the company and the shop steward committee shows that most if not all the issues you raise were discussed and great progress was made. This backs the assertion by Mandla Jele, your organiser, that members should elect a shop steward that will represent their interests. Do not elect someone who “services” you by engaging with management through “love letters” and not in meetings. At the time of going to press, you should have received a report back from these newly elected shop stewards. You can help build a strong and effective shop steward committee by continually giving them mandates and following up with them how they have taken up issues that are troubling you.
Dear JudiWe are Numsa members. We have serious problems here in South Cross Industries in Bloemfontein. Since 1988 Numsa has never ever won any case, even the simplest one. If there is a strong and hard working shop steward the company dismisses him with no reason. They don’t give him even a warning. The company don’t want the organiser to say something about the shop steward against the company. He said he must be an observer. Mr Makheyi was a shop steward he was dismissed without reason and Ben Rampono was also a shopsteward he was also dismissed for nothing. Ben Rampono was also a regional treasurer. We wrote a letter to Mr Mdladlana and told him about the situation of this company and about Ben Rampono. He said nothing about that. We wrote a letter to the head-office of Numsa they have never helped us until today. We ask help from you or send someone to help us as soon as you can because we are struggling. Numsa members at Southern Cross
Dear comradesPlease find a response to your enquiry from the regional secretary, Elias Mashiloane: “I will give an account of the steps taken by the Region to address the complaints and my perspective of what I believe is the real problem and how it can be resolved.
“If there is a strong and hardworking shopsteward the company dismisses him without reasons”The statement is true however the latter part, “without reason” is subjective – let us take the cases of the two cited shopstewards which were handled by myself.
* Dismissal of Cde McKay.The comrade was dismissed circa 1997/98 for fraudulent time-keeping when leaving company premises during night shift and there was company stock that disappeared during the same night in question when comrade McKay’s Combi was fetched from work during the same night by a colleague.I represented the comrade in the Labour Court which sat for full seven days and eventually we lost the case. It is being simplistic and incorrect to imply in anyway that the comrade was dismissed without reasons.
* Dismissal of Ben RamponoBen Rampono was dismissed around April 2006 for alleged gross insubordination and insolence.I represented Rampono in the arbitration that took about three days in all and eventually the ruling was not in our favour. Believing that the Arbitrator’s decision in this matter was not proper, I requested Numsa’s Legal Department to apply for a review of the matter. As Numsa News went to print, outside attorneys had advised Numsa that it could take Rampono’s case further but there was no guarantee that Rampono would win his case.
* “being an Observer”The company refused to allow me to represent Rampono in the disciplinary hearing at company level citing the rules of its disciplinary code and procedure. We contested their refusal and even phoned our national legal officer, Mashego, for legal opinion, but the chairperson ruled in the company’s favour and thus I asked for observer status.
Steps taken by the Region to address the complaintsAfter the May 19 2007 picketing by the workers, the Region tasked the Regional Chairperson to meet with Southern Cross comrades to discuss their problems. Shortly after this meeting took place, a joint meeting with staff and Southern Cross was convened by the Chairperson. Another meeting will take place soon.
The real problem and correct approach”For all these years until Rampono became a shopsteward in about 2003, Southern Cross shopstewards were not attending local shopstewards council meetings and were not raising their problems in constitutional structures of the union. It was only when Rampono became a shopsteward that their issues were properly raised and followed up. Since his dismissal, shopstewards no longer report factory problems to the local hence these complaints. “Southern Cross workers were divided between contract workers and permanent workers until recently when Rampono organized the so-called contract workers into the union and the union fought and brought to an end the issue of contract workers and the division it caused amongst workers.”It is true that employers will target strong shopstewards like Rampono especially if reasons for such attacks are created by ourselves. There is no remedy for this other than to ensure that our stewards do not create grounds to be attacked by employers.”There is no miracle that can address the problems of Southern Cross other than their shopstewards attending shopstewards councils regularly and formally raising factory problems there – that is how organized workers solve their problems.”That is how brief and simple the solution is – but it depends how you understand a trade union.”