NUMSA commemorates the 100 year anniversary of the Russian Revolution

Numsa Parliamentary Update: News Briefs

30 April 2013, Posted in NUMSA News

Credit amnesty
The department of trade and industry (DTI) believes a second credit amnesty for those who have incurred bad debts of up to R10 000 will help stimulate various sectors of the economy, including the property market.

This will permit people who had an unfavourable credit record to access home and micro-loans. The department briefed the select committee on trade and international relations on February 14 2013, and argued that the amnesty will facilitate employment.

However, the department was quick to point out that the credit amnesty did not mean that debts would be written off, but rather that blacklisting should be removed once debts have been settled. Further engagements on the matter are likely and the chairperson of the committee expects that the amnesty will be in place towards the end of the fourth quarter.

Iron ore and steel report-back
On February 15 the Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, briefed the members of the portfolio committee on trade and industry on the final report of the iron ore and steel intra-departmental task team, as well as the departmental review of bilateral investment treaties.

Speaking on behalf of the department, the acting deputy director general, Garth Strachan, outlined the background to some of the events leading up to the establishment of the task team. With the support of the DTI, Department of Public Enterprise, Department of Mineral Resources and the Economic Development Department, the task team was directed to “develop a set of inter-related policy instruments to ensure the long-term viability of the iron ore and steel value chain” that will promote beneficiation and provide manufacturing industry with a competitive advantage.

Short of scrapping import parity pricing, imposing a ban on the export of scrap metal and introducing an export tax on scrap metal, the task team recommended a set of four policy instruments that eventually received the backing of Cabinet in December 2012:

• A fast-track legislative process led by the Department of Mineral Resources to amend the Mineral Resources and Petroleum Development Act. This calls for an amendment to section 26 of the Act “to enhance provisions and align with national priorities related to access to minerals for local beneficiation”;

• A process led by the Economic Development Department to utilise the International Trade Administration Act to safeguard the supply of affordable scrap metal to domestic industries. (Measures to regulate scrap exports include new guidelines setting out conditions under which export permits will be granted, offering the scrap to local users at a price discount before exporting, and the establishment of task teams to inspect scrap metal consignments and to certify that the scrap has not been stolen);

• A process to amend the Competition Act, led by the Economic Development Department. (In the case of the iron ore and steel value chain, this would ensure that iron ore price concessions are passed on to downstream users; determine appropriate powers to determine pricing methodologies; monitor compliance; and sanction non-compliance); and

• An Industrial Development Corporation-led process to fast-track new steel investments to strengthen competition in the steel sector.
Import parity pricing

For some time now Numsa has lobbied against the use of import parity pricing and the effect of such a pricing policy on downstream industries. The union strongly objected to Arcelor Mittal’s dominance in the market and urged government to take urgent steps to scrap the IPP and impose an export tax on scrap metals.

We have not quite won the battle against multinationals such as Arcelor Mittal, but as a trade union we derive some comfort when our government takes a stand against companies that use their power to control markets and weaken our manufacturing capacity.

Woody Aroun is Numsa parliamentary officer

The 2013/14 National Budget
Similar to discussions on the NDP, as the CC we held thorough and extensive discussions on the 2013 National Budget as delivered to parliament by the Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan.

As Numsa’s leadership, we welcome some of the progressive proclamations which underpin the national budget, particularly the following interventions:

• The review of the tax policy framework in order to ensure that it better supports the objectives of inclusive growth, employment, development and fiscal sustainability;

• The re-formulation of the local government equitable share formula in order to provide a subsidy for free basic services which will benefit 59 % of households;

• The announcement that R827 billion earmarked for the infrastructure programme over the next three years.

In spite of these progressive and detailed pronouncements, however, the fundamental flaw in the budget is that it uses the NDP as its point of departure. Given the scandalous triple crisis of poverty, unemployment and inequality ravaging our country; we are extremely disappointed that the failed and rejected GEAR and its embedded neo-liberal macro-economic policies are once again being hailed under the façade of the NDP as the perfect tools for diagnosing and addressing our stark economic challenges.

Numsa on 2013 the state of the nation address
In response to the State of the nation address, The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) noted the following:

• The installation of 315 000 solar water geysers to poorer households;

• Willingness to change the concept of “willing buyer, willing seller” and to replace it with the “just and equitable” principle for compensation, as set out in the Constitution.

• Re-opening restitution claims by people who missed the deadline of December 31 1998. Also to be explored are exceptions to the June 1913 cut-off date to accommodate claims by the descendants of the Khoi and San as well as heritage sites and historical landmarks.

• Acknowledgement and confirmation that teachers have a constitutional right to strike.

• The establishment of a Presidential Remuneration Commission, which will investigate the appropriateness of the remuneration and conditions of service provided by the state to all its employees, beginning with teachers; and

• The call for the lifting of the embargo against Cuba, as well as solidarity with the people of Palestine and Western Sahara.
Rooted in the fundamentals of the Freedom Charter, however, Numsa is of the view that the address had glaring shortcomings:

• The manner in which government has outsourced its renewable energy programme to the private sector is not in the interest of the working class and the poor. Numsa’s position on social ownership is well known and the union anticipates further engagement with all stakeholders to promote forms of collective ownership in the energy sector.

• There was no mention of industrialisation, beneficiation and broad measures to support manufacturing such as local procurement and an appropriate macro-policy.

• We also note the president’s silence on the role of the state regarding the state pharmaceutical company, state construction company (given the patent collusion of construction companies that has been revealed recently), the state bank, and so on.

The Numsa central committee, scheduled for March 4-8 this year will undertook a more detailed analysis of, the State of the Nation address, Budget Speech and the National Development Plan.

Our view is that some of the President’s positive remarks and suggestions are at odds with the fundamentals of the National Development Plan which is simply a continuation of Gear and the neo-liberalism which we saw under the Thabo Mbeki administration.