The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has vowed to intensify its action and won’t accept anything less than the 8% that they are demanding, down from an initial 15% demand. Addressing hundreds of workers outside a community hall in Bellville South on Tuesday as part of the Cape Town leg of the strike, Numsa’s provincial secretary in the Western Cape, Vuyo Lufele said that they had revised the initial demand down after consultation with members and are not prepared to accept anything lower than that.
“In 2020, there were no improvements in your working conditions and benefits as there was no increase. But, this year you said enough is enough. They said there should be no strike last year because of Covid-19 but the employers wanted you to work as normal under Covid-19. Some of them applied to be classified as essential service and continued to make money under Covid-19 but now they claim to have no money for the increase,” said Lufele.
Lufele said that negotiations started in April this year and that throughout the process, the employers were attacking the collective bargaining process by making offers to workers at the plant level instead of industry level. “Some employers have offered 15% increase, others 10%, 8% and even 5% but what they are not doing is to mandate the representatives at collective bargaining to give workers a living wage. Some have threatened the workers with lockouts. I have seen so many of such letters,” he said.
The employers according to Lufele are offering 4.4% with conditions. “One of those conditions is that they want to do away with the extra leave. They want the workers to work for 45 hours before you get overtime. They also want the bonus to be calculated based on shifts. So even if you are sick and have a doctor’s certificate you will not be considered as having worked and therefore not eligible for a bonus,” said Lufele.
Numsa is also demanding ten days paternity leave, five days of family responsibility leave and the cutting of the youth wage subsidy as it only benefits the employers.
Offering a message of support, Andre Adams, the provincial secretary of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) said that workers are the ones who are bearing the brunt of Covid-19. “The bosses are lowering the wages and not the price of goods. Saftu’s NEC [National Executive Council] is in a meeting today and one of the agenda items is how we should support you as Numsa,” he said.