NUMSA commemorates the 100 year anniversary of the Russian Revolution

Message from Numsa General Secretary, Irvin Jim

30 April 2013, Posted in NUMSA News

Numsa General Secretary speaks to the Metalworkers

Collective Bargaining 2013
Our attitude to collective bargaining

Numsa is very clear that against this background, the working class is on its own. Even under these conditions, we shall not compromise our struggle for a living wage. We formed our union because we could not depend on employers to provide us with dignity, a measure of security and a rising standard of living. And, over the years, we have made impressive gains. But our objectives remain far from fulfilled, and even our past gains are now under attack.

We must remember Numsa’s very clear ideological position on capital: we know that it knows no friend or relative; we know that the only thing it knows is profit maximisation. So they will use the current global crisis of capitalism to further their aims of super-exploitation of South African workers.

We remain resolute in championing the struggle to break the backbone of white monopoly capital in our country. We are firm that in our country we can’t postpone fundamental transformation of the minerals, energy and finance capital complex.

We must deal with centralisation and over-centralisation of wealth in the hands of white and imperialist capital. It is now time to end super-exploitation of South African workers. These battles, together with the battle to champion manufacturing in our country, cannot be postponed.

We shall refuse and reject with contempt any attempt to use the global crisis of capitalism as cheap ammunition to cheat and to trick the working class into accepting starvation wages. We remain resolute that we will fight to defeat those tendencies which try to convince us that the bad state of global capitalism means that Numsa members cannot be given wage increases that guarantee them a living wage.

The cost of living for the past three years has directly affected workers negatively as a result of administered prices, such as electricity, that continue to rise.

So we will have to treat this round of collective bargaining as extremely strategic. We must secure living wages for our members, while at the same time using collective bargaining to secure the future of manufacturing, which is the future of our country and the future of metalworkers.
We are very clear. Numsa lives, Numsa leads. We are the future. No capitalist can touch us.

Preparing for collective bargaining
We need to analyse very carefully what is taking place in the world right now. So Numsa is busy with a study to check the profitability of big and small companies.

It is critical for Numsa that we gather together everything we can to buttress these negotiations. As we shall be making wage claims, we will need to have accurate data to rely on. We are busy collecting information about how companies have performed financially over time. We know all of them are now pleading poverty.

They will say they are just trying to survive. That is the song they will sing. We will conduct research and listen to information from our members. We want real, hard information, not thumbsucks.

We have done well through this approach in the Eskom campaign. Often the devil is in the detail. This is our honest strategy and companies will have to disclose information and open their books. As in all battles, soldiers, commanders and generals must be extremely committed and resolute. Unity and discipline are going to be paramount. We will all need to be extremely vigilant.

Numsa’s democratic process
We will do everything to further your interests. We shall carry the resolve of metalworkers from the bargaining conferences that will adopt demands collected by your shop stewards from you, the members. This is Numsa’s democracy – the custom and practice that demands of workers must be collected both in plants and local general meetings.

Numsa’s Way Forward
Our role as the working class in the ANC

We have to understand that the ANC is a multiclass organisation. The reality of the matter is that there is more than one agenda struggling for supremacy inside the ANC. Our role as working class activists and as a working class organisation is to win our agenda through battle.

The only way we can do that is to build and implement mass campaigns for our key demands. We must create a force which no ANC leadership can ignore. We must wage a relentless war for the success of our revolutionary agenda.

Immediately, we must defend ourselves against the attacks that are currently being mounted against us – we must get rid of e-tolling for once and for all; we must ban labour brokers; we must dispose of the youth wage subsidy.

And having turned back that tide, we must move forward to the implementation of the Freedom Charter and the nationalisation of key sectors of our economy in order to rebuild a manufacturing sector that can create the jobs we need.

None of this will happen without mass working class militancy. Without that militancy, we will give ground to other class forces in the ANC. If we do not implement these militant mass campaigns, we will know that it is we who are responsible for whatever anti-working class agenda prevails in the ANC.

Our place in a global struggle
In the US and Western Europe, governments have taken away resources form ordinary people in order to pay the debts of the banks that have collapsed. This is a naked attempt to make the working class and the poor pay so that the banks can continue to give profits to their shareholders. Millions of working people have lost their jobs. Services to the working class have been cut.

There are clear signs that the US and Western European people are tired of this severe austerity. It has been rejected by people all over the world. This has resulted in strikes and other similar working class protests which have often been suppressed by the armed forces of the state.

We know now that workers’ conditions in China are extremely bad. That’s how China has become a low-cost producer, using lean production processes that increase volumes of production. It has done this by attacking the working conditions of workers and by reducing the buying power of workers. This challenges the ability of economies such as South Africa to compete

Now these workers are beginning to stand up and to fight back for a living wage. Surely we as workers all over the world must stand up in solidarity with Chinese workers. That’s the only way we can defend our jobs, our benefits and our conditions. Otherwise capital will continue to shift production to China, or any part of the globe that helps them make more profit.

AWU Congress
Recently, in my capacity as Numsa GS, I had the privilege to address the Australian Workers Union, which organises workers in many sectors, including some of the same sectors as Numsa. What was amazing was that it was clear that they are championing the same struggle as Numsa around manufacturing.

They are campaigning and pushing government to deal with dumping of products in their country. They have convinced government to set up a national commission to deal with dumping and their government has accepted the need to set up a manufacturing task force.

Their challenge is to keep workers in jobs, but also to defend their manufacturing capability and to build new sectors and to create new jobs. That’s the same vision that Numsa has for the future of our country, for metalworkers and for all workers of our country.

The Numsa moment
We must be a country that makes things. Manufacturing is the future for young people and workers. Numsa has been championing manufacturing. One of Numsa’s veteran officials at head office was bold enough to give this a name – he called it “a Numsa moment”. It is a Numsa moment because the struggle to build manufacturing in South Africa is Numsa’s struggle.

We champion it. We lead it, as metalworkers, because it affects us most deeply. At the same time, because we spend our lives in the factories where the battle between capital and labour is harshest, we, as metalworkers, are revolutionaries. We understand that we cannot leave those factories in the hands of capital, to continue to brutalise us as they do.

So it is a Numsa moment because it represents the future of South Africa, a revolutionary future in which we will build the manufacturing sector by taking ownership and control of the factories.

Discipline and honesty
We must be ready to seize this moment. It calls for strong, high levels of organisational discipline and revolutionary organisation with strong, honest leadership that acts on its mandate and in the interests of its members. The success of metalworkers in these difficult conditions can only be guaranteed by less opportunism among our leaders at all levels and members.

We must be absolutely honest in our commitment to act in the interests of our members. Such a process must be dominated by transparency, honesty, trust and dignity.