Statement by NUMSA General Secretary on RMA’s attempts to hold Government’s industrialisation plant at ransom

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria is currently hearing the application for Interim Relief brought to it by the Metal Recycler’s Association (MRA).

The MRA seeks to blackmail the Economic Development Department (EDD) and the International Trade and Administration Commission of South Africa (ITAC) into abandoning their decision to introduce interventions in the market for the supply of scrap metal which are aimed at saving jobs and revitalising industrialisation which has been severely hampered by the actions of MRA.

As the voice of metal workers, NUMSA has been engaged in a decade-long struggle since the beginning of the 2000s in defence of jobs, beneficiation, broad based industrialisation and decent work. We have been campaigning for the imposition of a ban on the export of scrap metal or alternatively the introduction of export taxes on scrap metal. The latter call has been supported by organised business in the affected industry and it has found resonance in many government policy documents.

Our call for the imposition of export taxes was prompted by the experience of job losses, high levels of deindustrialisation and the loss of productive capacity and capability due to the fact that local scrap processors were deprived of affordable and quality inputs by the scrap recyclers who were choosing to sell scrap in international markets. In 2009 alone, more than 985 000 tons of scrap was exported at the expense of beneficiation and broad based industrialisation, and more importantly, at the expense of the jobs and livelihoods of South Africans.

Our colleagues and comrades in the following plants have already lost their jobs due to the inability of foundries to operate sustainably:

• 2010- Eclipse West Plant- 500 jobs lost
• 2010- Eclipse East Plant – partial closure
• 2011- Eclipse Dimbaza in EC- 350 jobs lost
• 2011 Krynie Brothers in Gauteng – 22 jobs lost
• 2011 Belmec in EC– 100 jobs lost
• 2011 Alfa Foundries Springs – 80 jobs lost
• 2012 Crown Cast closed its doors – 130 jobs lost

The MRA in attempting to defend the indefensible argues that they represent the interests of the scrap metal collectors, who operate in the informal sector and that the proposed intervention by the EDD and ITAC will put the livelihoods of these collectors at risk. In doing so, MRA pretends to suddenly have a conscience and be concerned about the good of our country. Let us not forget that this is same MRA whose members were found guilty by the competition authorities of price fixing and market allocation less than five years ago. They should have thought about the livelihoods of the poorest of the poor when they were robbing the economy in broad daylight!

MRA want to blackmail government and society in general by alleging that government’s actions will lead to large-scale job losses in their sector. We beg to differ. There is no reason why a large number of jobs should be shed in this sector due to the proposed policy interventions, as they do not place any limitations on the amount of scrap metal to be supplied, but rather on whom it is supplied to. Whether the scrap metal is supplied locally or internationally, this should not have a major bearing on the number of people the industry is able to absorb.

NUMSA represents workers who are employed by the members of the MRA and have heard from them the terrible conditions under which they work. These include:

• The lack of decent work
• 70% of workers are temporary, and most are employed by labour brokers
• Many workers earn hourly rates that are below R10,00
• Health and safety regulations are not adhered to within the industry
• Workers do not belong to any bargaining council, and wage negotiations are not centralised. A company such as Reclam for example, which has over 60 branches, negotiates at plant level, with the result that workers in different plants are paid different rates for the same job.

NUMSA would like to highlight the urgency that is required in implementing the proposed policy. The failure to intervene in supporting the foundry industry in a systematic manner over the past decade has led to the loss of thousands of jobs. It is highly irresponsible of the MRA to further seek to delay the implementation of this policy, given the very real possibility of a further loss of jobs.

If MRA persists with this unpatriotic behaviour, NUMSA will mobilise its 329 000 members and society at large in support of the proposed intervention and more broadly, behind the demand for an export tax policy for the express purpose of driving industrialisation and job creation.


Irvin Jim
General Secretary
Mobile: 0731576384


Neo Bodibe
Head of NUMSA Economic Research and Policy Institute
Mobile: 0832321485