The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa’s (Numsa) representing 341 150 members will come out on a protected socio-economic strike on Wednesday 19 March 2014 to demand jobs for South Africa’s youth.
This is the first of a series of rolling socio-economic strikes that the union decided on at its Special National Congress in December 2013.
Since November 2013, Numsa has been involved in negotiations with government at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) where the union objected to the Employment Tax Incentive Bill that government had tabled in parliament.
Contrary to the NEDLAC Act of 1994 that requires that socio-economic policies be discussed with labour, business and community constituencies within the social dialogue body before they are tabled before the legislature, government took the Bill to parliament.
With the promulgation of the Bill in December 2013, Numsa decided to go on strike on Wednesday 26 February and filed notice for such action in terms Section 77 of Labour Relations Act (LRA). Realising that the proposed strike was to coincide with Minister Pravin Gordhan’s Budget Speech, government’s representative did everything in their power to stall so that the union does not meet the 14-day notice period required by NEDLAC protocols.
Government’s bureaucrats and Ministers realised that a national strike on Budget Day had the potential to blow away the ideological fog of “we have a good story to tell”, that is being spread even though our people, especially the workers and the poor, live in scandalous conditions as they were under apartheid.
Why Numsa sees the tax incentive scheme as a false solution to youth unemployment?
Since the publication of the proposed legislation, Numsa has been against the tax incentive scheme arguing that the scheme was a false solution to the burning crisis of youth unemployment. Through the scheme, government will simply hand over billions of Rands to employers, in the form of a tax rebates, while making no dent on high levels of youth unemployment.
The union consistently argued that the tax incentive scheme will lead to the following negative consequences;
a) Subsidisation of employers for taking on workers whom they would have employed anyway;
b) Displacement of older and unsubsidised workers;
c) Creation of a multi-tiered labour market where workers in the same establishment and who are doing the same job will have different wages, benefits and overall employment conditions; AND
d) Widening of inequality. The regulations promised in the legislation to outlaw displacement will be impossible to enforce.
The scheme also gives no guarantee that training and skills development for subsidised workers will take place. For Numsa, the tax incentive scheme is like taking out water from a highly leaky boat, using a small leaky bucket.
Today (Monday 24 February), Numsa’s President Andrew Chirwa signed the notice for a strike on Wednesday 19 March 2014. This follows the union’s special national executive committee (NEC) that met last week and agreed to move the day of the strike from 26 February to 19 March 2014. This is to ensure that workers who participate in the strike are protected and are not open to employer victimisation and disciplinary actions.
Numsa’s executive committee also decided to use Budget Day for protest action in industrial areas and as a build-up to the National Strike of 19 March 2014. As part of the build-up for the national strike, a mass demonstration will be held outside parliament in Cape Town, part of contesting the neo-liberal trajectory being pursued by the Ministry of Finance. One of our key demands to this mass demonstration will be to demand a Budget that favours the poor, as opposed to the rich.
Phambili with the 19 March Strike Action for Decent Youth Jobs:
A number of trade unions and other progressive social, students and youth movements have endorsed the campaign as led by Numsa, given the paralysis or challenges faced by Cosatu, to organise workers and champion alternative policies to dent the triple crisis of poverty, unemployment and inequality in South Africa.
As a union, we call on the workers and the poor of our country to support our action on 26 February and 19 March, 2014. The action on March 19 will be held in all major towns or cities in the country. We want to assure workers that this action will be protected, and no employer will be able to dismiss workers for participating in this action.
Those supporting Numsa’s campaign are urged to link up with our local structures who have programmes of action that relate to different communities and link our campaign to their demands.
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