“We are going to do a Marikana,” were the words on the lips of workers at Toyota SA in Prospecton in early October 2012.
Workers were angry that the employer had given team leaders an extra R3,22 per hour outside the formal collective bargaining negotiations that had taken place in 2010.
But when the employer extended this to team leaders at the Johannesburg branch where there is no production, workers saw the move for what it was – a ploy to divide workers.
Shop stewards took up the issue with management and followed the required procedures, but without success. And that is when the frustration over a long-unresolved process turned from anger against the employer to anger against the union.
Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim, flew to Durban to address striking workers. To his cries of “Viva Numsa viva!”, came back their cries of “Numsa voertsek!”.
Despite his regular appearances on television, workers did not recognise him, booed him off the podium and demanded: “We want Irvin Jim! We want Irvin Jim!”.
One of the workers had to take the stage and explain: “This is Comrade Jim.” Workers gave him 10 minutes to talk and then instructed him to go and “win the R3,22 and then come back and talk”, says Stephen Nhlapo, who was part of the Numsa negotiating team.
Delicate negotiations followed with the employer and representatives of a committee elected by the striking workers, shop stewards and Numsa negotiators.
Numsa negotiators took the proposal back to workers who accepted it. And at last, cries of “Viva Numsa viva!” and “Amandla awethu!” rang through the hall.