NUMSA memorandum to employer representatives in the Metal and Engineering Industrustries bargaining council

We say YES to a living wage and YES to a decent life for workers 
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) on behalf of its 220 000 members in the metal and engineering sector has been mandated to register our dispute over the deadlock in our wage negotiations.  We are conscious of the weak state of the global and local economy as we negotiate for a living wage and a better life for our members.
Current Global Economic Situation
Globally the crises of capitalism is getting worse.  Unemployment is continuing to rise and the working class of Europe and the world over is being forced to pay for the crises of capitalism.
Despite all the slowdown in the global economy, increasing unemployment and suffering of the working class, capital continues to make excessive profit.  Capital makes profit when there is a downturn in the economy, capital makes profit when there is an upturn in the economy.  And throughout this the working class and poor gain nothing, instead they continue to suffer from the upturn and are made to suffer in a downturn.
When the banks were crashing, it was the job of the bourgeois state to rescue them.  The bail out of the banks increased the exploitation of the working class.  These states chose to rescue banks, ignoring the plight of working class communities .  They never thought of supporting the working class through increasing their services nor did they support working class incomes during periods of high unemployment.
The Current Domestic Economic Situation
In South Africa we continue on the path of rapid deindustrialization, with the greatest  job losses in manufacturing sector.  Large numbers of Numsa members have lost their jobs.  In addition there has been a failure of government to demand localization of intermediate products and a failure to pursue a protective tariff regime.
The unemployment rate for young people was actually 47.5% in the third quarter of 2013.  This means that 1 in every 2 young people cannot find a job and has very little chance of ever finding employment.  26 million South Africans live in abject poverty and it is widely accepted that South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world when it comes to income distribution.
Overall, the 20 years of democracy has been disastrous to the working class of our country.  It has been 20 years of

  • Higher rates of racialised poverty and unemployment
  • Higher levels of inequality
  • Inferior education system
  • Collapsed public health care
  • Dehumanizing living conditions In fact this has been a bad story to tell for the majority of our people, and a good story to tell by White monopoly capital, which has benefited immensely since the dawn of democracy.         
  • This strike of metal workers takes place in a labour market where unemployment among African workers has grown to 46%. For every 1 unemployed white worker there are 80 unemployed African workers. White people earn on average 4 times what Africans earn. Workers share of national income continue to decline whilst the share of profits continue to go up.

The Plight of workers in the economy today

  • We believe that every South African should have the right to work and that they should earn a living wage and have a decent life. That this is a privilege of a limited few 20 years into our democracy is shameful. We demand that the state uses levers to deliberately and aggressively drive industrialization, sustainable development, decent employment creation, regional development and that we break the historical patterns of colonial exploitation and dependence.
  • Furthermore we demand that government stops advancing pro-business, pro-DA economic positions. We further demand that government stops pursuing neoliberal policies including deregulation (exchange controls, relaxation of tariffs), inflation targeting and privatization.
  • In the interest of metalworkers and the engineering sector we have a struggle to engage both business and capital to do 3 core things: 1. Defend the current capability of our manufacturing sector; 2. Grow the manufacturing sector and 3. Offer decent work and wages to those employed within the sector.

Our Demands to Government to Grow Manufacturing

  • We are also witnessing the effects of government’s failure to implement policies which encourage industrialization and a thriving manufacturing sector.
  • Alongside these economic woes we are also witnessing the increasing arrogance of South African capitalism especially mining and finance capital, most starkly illustrated through the 2012 massacre of mineworkers at Marikana.
  • South Africa continues to be characterized by massive inequalities, widespread structural unemployment and national poverty, all of which largely affect Black and African people confirming the undying and stubborn nature of our apartheid colonial past with no immediate nor significant improvements to the triple crises of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

Most of our members organised in this sector live in shacks and informal settlements, their wages are insufficient to afford decent housing and other important basic necessities.  Over 20% of workers disposableincome is spent on the cost of transport because of the persisting legacy of apartheid social engineering, and its settlement patterns, which has ensured that Africans in particular and Blacks in general, live far from workplaces. Petrol inflation which has a significant effect on the cost of almost all other products as well as on the costs of public transport, stands at 14.3% almost double the increase the employers are offering to workers in this industry. The latest food inflation figures for May 2014 stand at 9.1% while workers who bear the brunt of having to put food on the table for their unemployed extended family members are expected to accept a measly increase of 8%.
General engineering scheduled employees earn poverty wages of R5300 per month while the CEOs in this industry continue to earn millions. We doubt that these overpaid representatives of the capitalist class spend less than R5300 on just their cellphone costs for the month while workers are supposed to carve out an existence on this pittance of a salary. A 12% increase will increase the earnings of the lowest paid workers in the industry to just under R6000.
Mr Henry Laas, the CEO of Murray & Roberts Steel took home over R9 million last year, a whopping 140 times more than his own workers whom he expects to be productive and enthusiastic on a daily basis.  He was not alone in the jackpot stakes – Gary Bell, the CEO of Bell Equipment took home R3.1 million in 2011 while Mr Kobus Verster, the CEO of Aveng enjoyed wages of over R4.4 million last year.
Our demands 
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) representing more than 220 000 super-exploited workers in the strategic layer of our economy – the Engineering/Metals sector notes that with other trade unions we have been negotiating with employers for the last three months. Despite this we are still not able to agree on a certain number of issues.
The employers, instead of negotiating in good faith have demonstrated their exploitative and neo-liberal approach in this round of bargaining by insulting us with an initial offer of a 50% wage cut. This approach from employers clearly seeks to reverse the hard won gains that we have registered through collective bargaining.
The employer bodies, particularly Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (SEIFSA), National Employers Association of South Africa (NEASA) and Boarder Industry Association (BIA) are hell-bent on retaining and perpetuating the colonial apartheid wage income disparities.
Numsa believes that we are being duped by the bosses by their constant claim that our demands are totally unaffordable and unreasonable. We demand that the bosses in the engineering sector disclose their financials so that we can better understand the financial position of the engineering employers.
Numsa has resolved that we shall strike until our demands are met.
Our outstanding demands are:
Duration and Cycle of Agreement 
The period of operation of this agreement must be one year.
Increase of 12% effective from 1st July 2014 to 2015. To be duly backdated for whatever reasons of delay.
Labour Brokers
We demand a total ban of labour brokers.
Short Time

  • Short time must not affect workers’ shifts in relation to leave enhancement.
  • After 6 weeks of short time, there must be negotiations on short time and the employer must be forced to provide training through MERSETA and many other solutions to end short time must be determined.
  • We must replace consultation during short time and engage in negotiations.
  • During short time workers must be paid for at least 36 hours per week.
  • The industry must establish a fund that will cater for short time.

Housing Allowance

  • Housing allowance of not less than R1 000 per month payable to each worker in the industry

Training and Career Path

  • Introduce a ratio for apprentices i.e. for every five apprentices employ one artisan
  • Guarantee all apprentices employment for the duration of their apprenticeship
  • 100% payment for all training
  • Current employees must not be expected to resign from employment if they take apprenticeship
  • Training should not be limited to certain courses

Shopstewards Recognition and Time Of  

  • We demand a minimum of 30 days for shopstewards
  • Shopstewards should not lose shifts for leave granted for union activities and training
  • Amend sections 44,46 and 47 of the Main Agreement(reasonable to be changed to unlimited time-off)
  • Unlimited time off for shopstewards serving at MEIBC, MERSETA and MIBFA to attend meetings and any other work for the structure

Employment Tax Incentive 

  • No company in our industry should be allowed to implement the Employment Tax Incentive 

Load Shedding
Workers must be paid for the full 8 hours during load shedding where the companies have been notified in advance.
In these negotiations we were guided by our Bargaining Strategy underpinned by the following principles;

  • Closing the colonial apartheid wage gap, fighting for equity in the workplace and demanding a Living Wage;
  • No to downward variation to the worker’s conditions of employment;
  • The democratisation of the workplace;
  • Reduce excessive pay for the Bosses;
  • Developing the skills of the workforce that was deprived of that development during colonial-apartheid past; AND
  • Use collective bargaining to organise the unorganised and thereby growing Numsa into a formidable fighting force.

We are not going to be intimidated by all those who represent the class interest of business and big capital and argue that we are embarking on a political strike and we doing so to take forward the alleged mineworkers strike against the economy.  Genuine working class demands must not be vulgarized to represent the interest of the rich.  Workers withdrawal of labour in a wage dispute is the only weapon they have. When the multi-term wage agreements results in no strikes for the specified period then who is to blame for the economies slowing down internationally and locally?
Numsa wants urgent steps to be taken  to reverse the investment strike by capital and for capital and the state to stop blaming workers for the state of the economy.  We are refusing for the working class to pay for the global and local crises of capital.  Even under these conditions we demand a living wage for engineering workers.
We give the employer 48 hours to respond to our demands and to return to the negotiating table with a commitment to a double digit offer for engineering workers.
Presented by                          : Numsa
Date                                           :  1st July 2014
Name & Signature               : ———————————