The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa is gearing up for a mega strike in the Plastics sector. We are calling for a total National #PlasticsShutdown. The employer group we are dealing with in the plastics sector is constituted by a conservative, notorious group of employers who have been hell-bent on undermining the hard won gains of workers. It is this group of employers who unilaterally varied down workers’ wages and benefits, and worsened their working conditions. They are doing all they can to justify their continued abuse and exploitation of workers. These are the same employers who wanted to collapse the MEIBC council by refusing to pay levies, which they still owe!

The Sins of the Plastics Employers

Plastic employers have set a terrible precedent by unilaterally varying down the benefits, conditions and wages of our members in the industry.

  • Grade H minimum wage has been reduced from R40 to R20;
  • Leave Enhancement Pay (bonus) has been taken away;
  • They have increased hours of work from 40 to 45 per week and they don’t pay overtime;
  • Leave Entitlement of 4 weeks has been down varied – 4th week if you have 4 years’ service has been taken away;
  • Introduction of Area category – Outlying areas will be paid 10% less than urban areas (JHB, DBN and CPT).

These are just some of the ways that the employers in this industry have taken away hard won benefits of workers. At the core of the current dispute and the strike that will commence on Monday 15 October 2018, across the length and breadth of the country, is that we will down tools to demand the total restoration of workers benefits and conditions as stipulated in the MEIBC Main Agreement, as the Plastics Sector falls within the scope of the MEIBC. We are very clear that these employers cannot pick and choose what they will comply with within the MEIBC. For instance, they comply with other MEIBC Agreements i.e. the Pension Fund Agreement, Provident Fund Agreement, Sick Pay Fund Agreement and the Dispute Resolution Agreement. But in relation to workers’ wages and benefits, they are spitting on the sacrifices made through the blood, sweat and tears of generations of workers in the industry.

NUMSA is irritated and dismayed that these employers are emboldened by the worst onslaught against the working class, as championed by President Cyril Ramaphosa of the governing ANC.  His introduction of the Poverty National Minimum Wage of R20 per hour is a terrible setback and an attack on the hard won gains of the working class. The same ANC, in its desperation to please ratings agencies, is also tampering with the Constitutional right of workers to strike. 

These employers know that NUMSA secured improved wages and working conditions in the Engineering sector. They are trying to circumvent the application of wage increases in the broader engineering sector which were secured at the MEIBC. The employers in the plastics sector often pay less than the Poverty National Minimum Wage of R20 per hour. Our members cannot survive on the poor wages paid in the Plastics sector.

A decision by the Labour Appeals Court in 2016 resulted in the recognition of the Plastics Negotiations Forum. Since its formation, this forum has acted unilaterally and has attempted to force NUMSA, which is the majority union in the sector, to accept a wage agreement which results in the erosion of conditions and benefits for workers in the Plastics sector.

We demand that workers in the Plastics sector receive the same benefits as workers in Engineering.  We reject the employers’ attempts to worsen working and living conditions through downward variation. The bosses in this sector want to re-create Apartheid living and working conditions for the working class majority.

In essence this means that we want the provisions of the Main Agreement of the MEIBC to be applicable to employees in the plastics sector.

Below are our detailed demands:

  1. Plastics workers’ wages and other terms and conditions of employment must be regulated by the council’s Main Agreement, the MEIBC.
  2. Plastics workers’ wages and other terms and conditions of employment must be the same as those in the rest of the industry covered by the MEIBC council’s Main Agreement.  We demand that there must be no downward variation of plastics workers’ terms and conditions as compared to those workers in the rest of the industry that are covered by the council’s Main Agreement.
  3. NUMSA remains resolute in demanding a 15% wage increase. In the period 2014-2017 these notorious employers short-changed workers and denied them an increase.
  4. We further demand that the settlement reached in the MEIBC from 2017 to 2019 must be applicable to the Plastics sector.
  5. We also demand that plastics employers agree that they will do all that is necessary to support the request of the Minister of Labour for the extension of the Main Agreement.  This will ensure that the agreed wages and other substantive conditions of employment relating to plastic sector employees will be applicable to all who are employed by Plastics employers that are not party to a plastics sector employer’s organisation, but fall under the scope of the MEIBC.  
  6. NUMSA demands that employers in the Plastics sector must support the extension of the Main agreement on substantive wages, terms and conditions of employment, as supported by SEIFSA.

We are calling on all our members in the Plastics sector across the country to embark on an indefinite strike that will commence on Monday 15 October 2018. At least 10 thousand NUMSA members will down tools to defend their rights and demand a #LivingWageToday. This is a national strike which will affect at least 450 companies in the sector. Any industry that depends on Plastic, whether it’s the cell phone, IT, or automotive sector, will be affected. This is an indefinite strike and it will continue until such time that employers meet our demands. We are calling on workers’ and all our progressive organisations and the community at large, to support and show solidarity with Plastics workers.

Aluta continua!

The struggle continues!

Issued by Irvin Jim

NUMSA General Secretary

For more information, please contact

Phakamile Hlubi-Majola

NUMSA National Spokesperson