The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) condemns in the strongest terms SCAW Metals for victimizing and intimidating workers. On Tuesday the management of the company suspended one of our shop stewards on trumped up charges. They have also informed us that they intend to issue final written warnings to our members for participating in the so-called ‘illegal strike’. We view these acts as acts of intimidation against our members to punish them for highlighting the abuse of Rami Barnes, a Managing Director at SCAW metals. They are punishing our members for withdrawing their labour in response to the failure of SCAW management to provide a safe working environment.
Last Friday Rami Barnes allegedly assaulted one of our members for using his cell phone whilst on duty. His actions enraged our members, and they were provoked into withdrawing their labour. We reject the notion that our members participated in an illegal strike. They had no choice but to take a stand against violence and racism. This is the duty of every NUMSA member. They must defend the weak and stand up against bullies, racists, sexists, chauvinists and all those who oppress the working class majority!
Earlier in the year he assaulted a worker. As NUMSA we demanded the removal of Barnes but we were ignored by the board and management of the company. Now we are faced with a second incident where the very same man is alleged to have assaulted a worker and confiscated his phone. As a union, we have demanded that he be immediately suspended and that an external, independent investigation take place to look into these serious allegations. We have also demand that we must be represented during that investigation to guarantee transparency. But SCAW refuses to take action against Barnes. Instead, they have been swift to punish workers for raising the alarm against his alleged abuse.
IS IDC ALSO PROTECTING THE RACIST, ABUSIVE RAMI BARNES?
The board has rejected our demand for disciplinary measures to be taken against Barnes. The message is clear: this backward, primitive culture is tolerated by a company in partnership with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). We are calling on the IDC and SCAW management to act swiftly to uproot this violent culture by suspending Rami Barnes and the group of managers who are behaving like ring leaders of his completely unacceptable behaviour, that belongs in the dark days of Apartheid.
SCAW management does not want the world to know how they have consistently failed to protect workers against the tyranny of Barnes. He is notorious for abusing workers and the management at SCAW are aware, but nothing has been done about his alleged abusive behaviour. That’s because Barnes is a shareholder at SCAW Metals and is feared by the board and the management team. According to our members he behaves like a foreman, who goes around the workplace bullying African workers. Barnes is a rabid, racist bully who refers to grown men and women as “boy’ or ‘girl”.
IT SEEMS SCAW METALS TOLERATES VIOLENT RACIST BEHAVIOUR
Barnes is being given special treatment because he is white and a shareholder, and these are African workers. SCAW Metals is clearly comfortable tolerating the behaviour of a racist bully, instead of ensuring a safe working environment for all workers. The common practice when someone is accused of assault is that the person is immediately placed on suspension, pending an investigation. This is what we have been demanding should happen to Rami Barnes. He must be suspended pending an independent investigation.
Meanwhile, workers at SCAW metals in Germiston have resumed their duties. This is after we met with management on Monday to discuss the strike. We had to do all we could to prevent the employer from unfairly dismissing them for protesting against the worst form of provocation. We will continue to do all we can to protect our members from any unfair disciplinary process, because of the decision to withhold their labour. Our members will not tolerate racism or exploitation of any kind, regardless of the title that person has. They are fed up with being mistreated by Rami Barnes, and they demand justice. Clearly SCAW management is incapable of guaranteeing a fair and safe working environment, where untransformed bullies are not allowed and tolerated. As a union, they have pushed us against the wall. We have no choice but to stand for justice and stand with our members and we are prepared perish with them in demanding and fighting for a democratic workplace, free of racism and violence.
We are calling on our members in all traditional SCAW plants where the Barnes Group, led by Rami Barnes, to unite and stand together and reject the reign of terror and violent, abusive culture, which has become dominant, and where super-exploitation and oppression is the order of the day. In all these companies where Rami Barnes has an interest, rules apply only to workers, not to himself, and championing a backward, intimidating workplace culture. NUMSA is very clear that the time for tolerating this thug-like, backward behaviour is over. We have accepted the challenge of demanding a safe, democratic workplace for our members.
We thank our members for having displayed militant discipline and revolutionary patience in the face of extreme provocation.
The struggle continues!
Issued by Irvin Jim
NUMSA General Secretary
For more information, please contact:
NUMSA National Spokesperson