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NUMSA’s Policies and Principles

NUMSA’s Principles
Trade unions like Numsa use their powers to help defend and advance workers’ rights. NUMSA’s principles help to build these powers:

  • Non-racialism – to be strong we need to organise all workers. The employers used apartheid to divide workers. Numsa tries to break down the division between white and black workers and build unity.
  • Democracy and worker control – in every structure we have a majority of workers to make sure that workers make the decisions and not officials; members elect their representatives, called shop stewards.
  • Unity of metalworkers and all workers in South Africa and internationally – we need one union in the metal industry in South Africa so we can act as one against employers locally and internationally and to put united pressure on government.

Numsa’s long term vision is of a united South Africa where the minority will no longer exploit and oppress the majority. For many, this is the socialism that we are still striving for. An organised and united working class must make sure we achieve this goal.

Numsa’s principles and policies stem from an analysis of where workers get their power from.

Workers are not like bosses. They cannot buy power with money. Workers get power from:

  • Numbers – workers are many, but bosses are few.
  • Unity – workers are strong when they act together but weak when they are divided.
  • Organisation – trade unions organise workers to act together and be united.
  • Industrial action – workers do the work, if workers refuse to work there is no production and no money for the bosses.
  • Protest action – having pickets and demonstrations tells the government and/or bosses what we feel and puts pressure on them to listen to our demands.
  • Solidarity – we can use the power of the community or the whole industry to help our struggle.

NUMSA’s Policies
Numsa has many different policies to guide its actions. This is just a summary of some of its main ones. If you want more details contact your Local Numsa office, or see NUMSA Policy on this website Workplace policies.

Numsa wants workers’ lives to improve on the factory floor. That is why it has been pushing hard to:

  • Close the apartheid wage gap. Apartheid built up big wage differences between skilled and unskilled workers. This gap was mostly a gap between white and black workers.
  • Push employers to provide training that will be recognised in other companies if those workers lose their jobs.
  • Reduce the number of grades at workplaces to 5 and make it a skills based grading system. This way anyone that does some training could be rewarded with higher pay because they will be more skilled.
  • For employers to recognise the skills that workers have learnt on the job and pay them for those skills.
  • Make sure that women are given jobs that are traditionally held by men if they are skilled enough to do them. Women must be paid equally for doing the same job as men.
  • Have more control over management’s investment plans and strategies. If the company is planning massive retrenchments, Numsa wants to know so that it can help to reduce the effect on members.

Numsa also believes in meaningful affirmative action. It does not want ex-Numsa shop stewards promoted to human resources positions and then they become tokens because they are given no power to transform the workplace.

Numsa wants affirmative action for all workers. Training will skill workers and automatically move them into more skilled positions with higher pay.

Workers need technical training and basic education. Employers must allow them time to do this during working hours.

There must be no more discrimination against workers whether it is because of their race, their gender or their religion. All workers must be treated the same.

The work places where Numsa members work are dangerous. Numsa tries hard to protect workers from dangerous and unhealthy conditions.

Numsa will help educate members around the big problem of AIDS. It will also defend AIDS sufferers from losing any benefits like their pension or provident funds and from being discriminated against at their workplace because of their illness.

Economic policy
20 years after the end of apartheid, South Africa still displays its racial past. It has the unenviable position of being the country with the highest inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient. The country’s unemployment rate is at 25% (or 36%) depending on which measure is used and refuses to drop. The vast majority of the unemployed are young and black. Poverty has dropped marginally but 15 million out of 50 million are still living in poverty.

Numsa believes that real change must happen in the economy if this extreme inequality, unemployment and poverty are to be corrected.

Policies such as the government’s National Development Plan which the ANC adopted in 2012, Numsa believes will do nothing to challenge the underlying problem of the domination of the economy by a few companies, the majority of them multinationals or white-owned with a smattering of black faces.

Political policy
Since the first democratic elections in 1994, Numsa has thrown its lot behind this alliance to improve workers’ lives even though it respects individual members’ rights to vote for the political party of their choice. Numsa has always said that it will reassess this alliance from time to time to see if it is achieving this objective. 

Since this exhibition was produced in 2012, the ANC government has done a number of things that have forced Numsa to question whether this Alliance really will improve workers’ lives.

Numsa was aware that the ANC victory in 1994 was only a partial victory. The ANC won political power but it did not win economic power. It had hoped that the ANC government, guided by its document the Freedom Charter, would move towards a society that was closer to Numsa’s vision.

However when the ANC adopted the National Development Plan (NDP) in 2012, refused to ban labour brokers and sped up the privatisation of roads through tolls, Numsa saw them as further examples of the ANC’s reluctance to shift the economy in a more left-wing direction.

From 2013, Numsa found a more disturbing pattern emerging with its own federation, Cosatu, moving towards the ANC and away from a more radical stance. Radical resolutions that were adopted at the Cosatu congress in 2012 remain as paper resolutions. The suspension of the Cosatu general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, in August 2013 added to Numsa’s concern that there was deliberate inaction in the federation so as to keep it as a toothless lapdog of the ANC in the run up to national government elections in 2014.

Since the first democratic elections in 1994 Numsa had always put extensive resources, both financial and human, into campaigning for the ANC. With the worrisome right-wing trends in the ANC and Cosatu, Numsa decided to hold a special meeting of its highest decision making body, the national congress, in December 2013. The national congress followed extensive consultations with Numsa members at factory, local and regional level on key issues like:

What should NUMSA’s approach be to the coming elections in 2014?

  • What should Numsa do about the alliance?
  • What are the alternatives to the Alliance?
  • How can Numsa reclaim Cosatu and transform it into an independent, militant, revolutionary, socialist-oriented, anti-imperialist, worker-controlled and democratic organisation? 

At this special national congress, Numsa resolved:

  • To call on Cosatu to break the alliance
  • To build a united front of organisations that are against neo-liberalism and to take up joint campaigns around common demands
  • To call for the resignation of President Jacob Zuma because of his government’s neo-liberal stance and the misappropriate use of state funds
  • To continue to push for the convening of a special Cosatu national congress while engaging with like-minded affiliates and other trade unions outside of Cosatu
  • Not to support any political party in the 2014 government elections. However Numsa members have the right to vote for the political party of their choice
  • Not to support the ANC or any political party financially or with manpower. However individual Numsa officials, shop stewards or members can campaign in their own time and with their own resources for the political party of their choice
  • To stop paying the political fund levy to Cosatu
  • On a Numsa service charter that sets out Numsa staff and leaders’ commitments to members
  • To move from organising along industries/sectors to organising along value chains.

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