Auto – getting agreement!Kaya ka Yoko
In VW since the rolling of the National Bargaining Conference (NBC) in April in Johannesburg, workers on the shop floor waited patiently. When the delegation reported the demands, they were comfortable.
Workers this time around did not focus only on wage increases but on other benefit enhancement demands as well.
During the report back, shop stewards emphasised that over the past years we never experienced change-making wage increase and that is why the NBC wanted to de-link our wage increase from CPIX.
Workers were prepared to die for their demands. The shop stewards' report united the workers. During the engineering sector strike, auto workers were like a month-long hungry lion in the cage, with its prey right in front of it. They were ready to strike.
However the negotiations process changed the workers from being united to be divided, from being morally militant to being morally defeated. During the tyre strike, workers were asking one another if it was strategic for the union to call for a strike.
At this stage workers were no longer saying â€˜WEâ€™. Instead they were saying the â€˜UNIONâ€™.
There was a distance between the union and its members. When we were about to have a quarterly general meeting on August 13 this year, workers were hanging around the shop stewards expressing their views in relation to a strike. During the meeting workers were patient, waiting for the NBF report.
The last two speakers highlighted the fact that the low number of workers in the meeting was an indication that workers were not ready to strike. But there was a group of employees that could not tolerate what they said.
They started throwing non-swallowable words showing their resistance to the idea.But it seems that the union really took more than enough time to do research, to mobilise workers, to engage hard to make the breakthrough.
At the end the facilitators saw that it was justifiable for employers to start bridging the gap from 6,4% to 8% and workers from 15% to 9,5%. It's tough luck for workers BUT the struggle continues!
New auto agreement – July 1 2007 to June 30 2010
Wages:9% across the board in 2007/88% across the board in 2008/97,5% across the board in 2009/2010
Severance pay* less than 5 years service – 10 days basic pay for each completed year of service* 5 years but less than 10 years service – 15 days basic pay for each completed year of service* 10 or more years service – 20 days basic pay for each completed year of service
National Industry Provident Fund to be established by August 2008
Year end gratuityIf a worker is dismissed or his/her contract is terminated, the worker will be paid a pro rata share of their year end bonus. If the worker was fired for theft or fraud, he/she will receive no pro rata bonus.
Short-time fund to be set up In terms of the new national agreement signed, all future contributions to the Work Security Fund will now go into plant level short-time funds. Companies will also increase their contributions from 5c per worker to 10c.
Maternity leave has been increased to 20 weeks on full pay.
An Industry Policy Forum will be established to discuss and debate strategic issues that affect the future of the automobile manufacturing industry. Issues like the wage model index, skills development, the Motor Industry Development Programme BBBEE and the Social Plan will be on the agenda.
2006 – 2007 2007 – 2008 2008 – 2009 2009 – 2010 Skill level
BMW wants flexible workers
Automaker BMW has told shop stewards at its Rosslyn plant that it wants to bid to make the new model BMW in South Africa.But, it says, there are two hitches â€“ one is that there must be certainty around the Motor Industry Development Programme (MIDP) â€“ governmentâ€™s incentive strategy for the automobile industry.
The other is that workers must be prepared to work flexibly like workers in other parts of the world. It wants its workers to 'bank' their overtime hours so that when they are required to work short-time, they cash in their â€˜bankedâ€™ hours. Already German workers have agreed to this method of payment.
But South African workers are refusing. Earnings rates for German workers are way above South Africans. A German worker for instance must work for nearly two days before he can buy a fridge, whereas a South African worker must work for almost three weeks.
'Beauty contests'The problem comes from the way in which multinationals (MNCs) operate. They require their plants in each country to tender to produce the next model. Those plants that work out the cheapest will get the model and the jobs and the losers will lose the model and their jobs.â€œ
We donâ€™t like these â€˜beauty contestsâ€™,â€ says auto sector coordinator, Herman Ntlatleng, â€œthey pit workers against each other and force workers to agree to downgrade their working conditions in order to keep their jobs.â€
Worker solidarityMeanwhile German workers at Volkswagen in Wolfsburg have said that they will refuse to make the right-hand drive Golf model if the company moves production from South Africa to Germany.
They said that they will only agree to produce the Golf if BMW gives the South African plant another model to make, that would absorb workers affected by the possible production shift. Trade unions need solidarity actions like these to counter the power of MNCs.