Lessons for shopstewards

Workers’ suspensions or dismissals are a set-back to every union. But now, most unions are waking up to the fact that shopstewards’ capacitation is also a direct benefit to their members.

Capacitation of Main Agreement or Case Handling to Numsa shopstewards is meant for them to implement the theory into practice at their workplaces, but not to respond to a wrong with another wrong, because it is not good enough for a shopsteward to justify their wrongful actions.

A shopsteward in company Huhtamaki is dismissed due to the misconduct of assaulting a fellow employee, and now the union is appealing. As a shopsteward, he should have known better that assault can lead to dismissal. Instead of getting himself into an unnecessary trouble, surely there could have been another efficient way of solving the situation.

271 workers at Top Trailer were recently dismissed due to an illegal or unprotected strike. Considering that courts are not always sympathetic with the unprotected strikers, this action could be very risky but shopstewards ignored it.

Yes the company has serious issues according to Lucas Mahlangu who is a shopsteward at Top Trailer, “There are workers belonging to the same grade but earning different rates, and the lousy reason the company gives is that there’s no money.

Now when we got suspended, we were told it’s suspension with full benefits; but within short space of time they changed and said it’s suspension without full benefits”.

In another incident; dozen members of company Natal Stainless Steel were suspended due to an illegal strike. “We always have to strike first to get an increase”, says the shopsteward Benjamin Motsoeneng.

He further complained that his company always makes excuses that it cannot afford increases because it doesn’t have money; surprisingly, the moment the organiser intervened, R250.00 was instantly added on each worker’s salary.

For such notorious and inconsistent companies such as these; Numsa shopstewards and members will always be viewed as targets at the plants. Therefore they should be very careful when handling cases or challenging an employer. At the same time they should appreciate the opportunity to expose the employers’ lack of knowledge on labour legislation.

The issue in Natal Stainless Steel was triggered by the racially motivated situation where a black employee was charged for money-theft without any circumstances pointing at her, whereas her Indian colleague whom she reports to has access for the key safe but remained un-charged.

Employers will always be difficult even if it’s not necessary but if Numsa provides improper leadership, there will always be poor responses like these.
Zwiitwaho Raidani is Numsa membership administrator, Ekurhuleni