Blitzing KwaZulu NatalFor two weeks in February, Numsa educators from across the country descended on KwaZulu Natal to take shop stewards through the course on case handling.
From Underberg to Port Shepstone, Nqutu to Jozini, Numsa shop stewards gathered for three days in community halls, Numsa offices or Cosatu affiliate offices to be coached in how to do their most important job in the factories – how to defend their fellow members at work. Educators Judy Madumo and Dinga Sikwebu give you a taste of the workshops.
The smell of revengeJudy Madumo
Walking on loose stones, we were careful to negotiate our way inside the covered passage of 7 EIV Mark Building.
With each step on the dislocated paving, water sprung up. It was such a sigh of big relief when we finished the tip-toe marathon. We then hurdled over to the flight of stairs.
My passage along this long passage kept my eyes swinging across every side, until they were held captive by a 72-font sized A4 page saying – â€œNumsaâ€.
With a friendly beam, Com â€œVâ€, the manager in charge of Numsa Newcastle local reclined away from her worn and almost limping swivel chair to reciprocate my hug.
â€œSome of you might recognise this face from Numsa News!â€ stirred the chairperson, Reuben Mdlalose. Some nodded and others shook their heads once each way.The group was divided into two smaller groups, each with a fair spread of new and old shop stewards.
The regional educator took half of it to a bigger Saccawu boardroom. Still we could smell each otherâ€™s breaths until Nhlanhla Ngcobo, the local deputy secretary and the only female participant in the group eased the scorcher with the fan. After the introduction, ground rules were adopted.
The process watchers kept the workshop daily proceedings under their watchful eye. And they took turns every morning to table reports on what worked and what didnâ€™t together with any other grievance the class might want to register.
I was permitted to speak in my â€œbroken IsiZuluâ€. Some twenty minutes down the line a hand rose to signal that â€œangimuzwa kahle u-comradeâ€ (I donâ€™t understand the comradeâ€). The comrade was recused and asked to participate in the Saccawu boardroom.
And luckily no-one had any more issues with my â€œpoor IsiZulu accentâ€.As hours and hours went by, even the comrade in the front row that was spotted with his hat pulled over his head, reclining with his head tilted backwards, found himself seated upright.
There was a smell of revenge now that the shop stewards were armed with how to create workers' rights by using grievance procedures and defending their rights by invoking the law.
Not only did different activities allow for drawing from oneâ€™s own experience and sharing those with others, it also allowed for the shifting of space for critical engagements.
This was to be seen when the group role-played an activity whose aim was to show how to demolish and show the unfairness of a charge in an actual hearing using all the different stages of the hearing.
The rain showered away the hot waves as the chairperson in his closing remarks called for more of such follow up courses. The smell of revenge was as plain as the nose on your face.
â€œWe love Numsa but the union must love us backâ€Dinga Sikwebu
Few in the union will know where Underberg, Mount Ayliff, Kokstad and Matatiele are. But these are some of the dorpies that make up KwaZulu-Natalâ€™s South Coast local. On 10-12 February, 18 shopstewards gathered in Kokstad for training on how to handle disciplinary cases in their workplaces.
From the word go, it became clear that sections of the educational manual would not apply to many of the companies in the area. â€œComrades, we deal with disciplinary problems while standing in the yard with the owner.
None of the things you are talking about are there in my company. Only once did the owner bring an outside lawyer to come and chair a disciplinary hearing. Everything is informalâ€, says Ariel Moholo from Sydfred General Motors.
In between talking about how to prepare witnesses and how to cross-examine the other side, the shopstewards were eager to say what they thought about the union. From questions and comments, what emerged is how workshop participants love Numsa.
To get to a local shopsteward council in Port Shepstone, the comrades spend between two and three hours on the road. â€œWhen we meet as an area committee in Matatiele it is under the tree. Passersby always look at us and ask: what toyi-toyi is this?â€, explained Lizzie Lepheana from Wozani Motors.
But the biggest outcry was on membership cards. Participants argued that they had nothing to show that they were members of Numsa. As one participant stated, â€œWe are not asking much. We are asking for cards and T-shirts so that we can show that we are Numsa. We love Numsa but the union must love us backâ€.
Every Numsa shop steward should now have done this course. If they havenâ€™t, tell them to contact their nearest Numsa office.
Eastern Cape Quarterly Workers' Indabas Watch out for these workers' indaba in these factories in Numsa's Eastern Cape Region, says Andile Zitho, Numsa's Eastern Cape regional organiser.
We hope to deal with the following in the meetings:-* Gender work* Mass Union Education * Organisational challenges per plant* Listening to members* Improve our serviceIn each indaba we plan to distribute free Numsa T.shirts or Golf Caps. Workers must go and register their names with their departmental shop steward or at the shop steward committee offices in their plants.
Feel free to raise suggestions with your shop stewards prior to the meeting dates if you have other issues you want to discuss. Find out more from your shop steward.
Uitenhage, Johnson ControlNumber of participants 20088% FemaleDate 13-14 March, 2009Venue Uitenhage â€“ Good-Year Recreational HallTime 09h00 â€“ 17h00
Uitenhage, VWSANumber of participants 50080% MaleDate 25/26 February, 2009Venue to be confirmedTime 09h00 â€“ 17h00
East London, Lear Co-operationNumber of participants 20070% FemaleDate 21/22 March, 2009Venue East London City HallTime 09h00 â€“ 17h00
East London, DCSA (Mercedes Benz)Number of participants 30080% Male
Date 28/29 March, 2009