Engineering workers strike and win
Johannesburg: What workers said…
In the week beginning July 9, Numsa’s engineering members painted the cities red in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, East London and Bloemfontein.For the first time ever, all engineering trade unions were present and together they snaked their way through city centres making their demands known and handing memorandums to Seifsa representatives. A week later, strikers went back to work with increases to their wages and improvements in other conditions (see pages 6-7) Our Numsa reporters were on the spot in Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg.
” Sifuna imali Sifuna i-10%!”
Alpheus Phalapala,Ampaglass, Elandsfontein
“We want all of the demands!”
Patrick Matabeni,Hendler and Hart
“We need money; transport, everything is too high!”
Soaring food, transport costs and unemployment force workers to strikeOutside Scaw Metals on day 2 of the engineering strike, workers were adamant that employers’ offer was not enough. All complained that soaring transport and food prices as well as the general unemployment situation were making it difficult for them to live.”7,5% is not enough,” said Dineo and Modiehi, both pattern makers at Scaw Metals. Although Dineo’s father is working at Scaw, her sisters have finished school but they can’t afford to send them on to tertiary institutions nor can they find jobs. Modiehi’s parents have passed away. Her brother earns little working on a mine while she lives near her workplace with her toddler. “Food, taxi fares go up all the time,” they complain.For Loyi Zulu, even though he works a 56 hour week including overtime, the R700 a week that he takes home leaves “me hungry”. With two homes, two wives and 11 people to feed and children at school, looking after his family is a difficult job. Even though some of his family members have temporary jobs, this is not enough to keep them happy.”My children mustn’t be hungry like me,” Zulu says.Unemployment is also affecting 54 year old Aaron Mzila. Although two of his boys have finished school there are no jobs for them at his Ulundi home. So he and his one son support his family of 8.”Everything is up, nothing is cheap. Taxi and food are going up all the time,” says Mzila.
Cape Town’s red oceanKarl Cloete and Philip Sapud
The mythological red sea found new meaning when an ocean of red t-shirts hit the streets of Cape Town like a symphony of waves. Close to 10 000 Numsa members heeded the Union’s call to confront the logic of the metal and engineering employers. The Numsa marchers demanding a living wage and better working conditions, were joined by Ceppawu, Solidarity and Uasa. The march started at the usual gathering place in Kaizergracht Street then moved on to the Seifsa regional offices to hand over a memorandum. As comrades marched singing and chanting through the streets of Cape Town, curious onlookers hung out the windows of their offices and piled onto the street to create a public holiday atmosphere on an ordinary working day. With the procession’s arrival at the Seifsa office the strikers were further spurred on by the report of the regional organiser on the many issues which employers refused to improve on. Worker control was in action when office bearers of all locals were given an opportunity to speak to their members in the strike about the programme of action until the employers settle the dispute. Numsa regional chairperson, Christine Olivier, also addressed the crowd of marchers at the Seifsa offices to loud cheers as the employer representative signed and accepted the memorandum, promising to ensure their negotiating team is made aware of our concerns.In his concluding remarks the regional secretary congratulated metalworkers on being very bold and confident in confronting the logic of capital while the bosses had handsomely benefited from the first decade of democracy. He called on workers to continue the struggle so that the second decade benefited the working class and the poor in our society. This was the biggest metalworkers march in Cape Town since Numsa’s birth in 1987!
Metalworkers were there in numbers in Bloemfontein
“We must earn better. Things are very expensive, the cost of living is too high.”Nuku and Melle, Pratley Leopardsvlei
In DurbanWoody Aroun and Francois Quarrie
More than 10 000 workers belonging to Numsa took to the streets of Durban on Wednesday July 11 to air their grievances against the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa’s (Seifsa) paltry wage offer of 7,5% – 8,5% for their workers. Food and transport costs over the last few months have spiraled out of control making it difficult for workers to support their families and put food on the table. Following on the heels of the national public sector strike, metalworkers throughout the country were demanding a 10% wage increase for workers in the lowest grades and 9% for workers in higher occupational grades over the next three years. Seifsa has also been stubborn in response to other substantive demands tabled by the union, like increased severance pay, shift allowances, and an end to the use of labour brokers. Dressed in bright union colours, the t-shirt brigade toyi-toyed along the city’s main street and made their way to the City Hall.Marchers made it clear what they wanted from employers. “This is right – for how long are we going to work overtime to earn a living wage and complain about crime simply because we the men are always labouring in the workplace to keep the home fires burning,” said Gerald Bredenkamp. “Seifsa needs to know that what we are demanding is what we deserve.””A five-grade system and ban labour brokers,” added Moses Maphumulo. “The government is worried about luring skills back to the country, while we are striking for skills development. Government should be monitoring Seifsa!” Maphumulo said.”It’s about time that we confront the logic of capital,” said Jabulani Mbambo. “They want a three-year agreement and the lowering of percentages on our wages over the duration of the agreement. Never! Do or die we demand a living wage and a share of the profits!”At the City Hall union officials presented a memorandum outlining their grievances to Steve Foster, a representative of Seifsa. Speaking on behalf of the union, Numsa regional vice chairperson, Fana Dlamini complained that after 13 years of democracy the only people who have benefited are the capitalists. “We have not enjoyed what we have reaped,” he said. He blasted the media, especially the public broadcaster SABC for their poor coverage of the strike and biased reporting in favour of Solidarity, a conservative union representing mainly white workers. While Dlamini stressed the need for unity amongst all the workers of our country, he went on to say that he was prepared “to give up his own position in the union” if it meant bringing the different unions together to form a single united metalworkers union in the country. Success is not about spontaneous combustion. You have to set yourself alight. It is obvious that the theme “Confronting the logic of capital through collective bargaining” did just that to workers!