NUMSA commemorates the 100 year anniversary of the Russian Revolution

Numsa spreads wings into the continent

12 December 2012, Posted in NUMSA News

Numsa spreads wings into the continent
By Skhumbuzo Phakathi

Following the central committee resolution to twin Numsa regions with neighbouring countries, work has started in earnest. The Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Free State have already started their work with their respective countries, namely Namibia, Kenya, Swaziland, Mozambique and Lesotho respectively.

The challenges faced by workers in these countries are similar to ours. There is a lot of casualisation, labour broking and influx of goods from outside which causes loss of jobs and weaken the unions.

In the experience of Kenya, there is an influx of second-hand cars deregistered in overseas countries, which limits the number produced locally. For example, out of about 100 000 cars on Kenya’s roads, only about 20 000 are new.

According to the chief shop stewards in the General Motors plant in Nairobi, Amos Mbedzi, this could have a negative impact on the security of jobs in the car manufacturing and related industries.

In the past, tyre manufacturer Firestone had to sell its shares to a new company Sameerafrica, because they felt they were not making enough profit. While there are several unions operating in the same sector, there are possibilities of unity, as some are already working closely on a number of programmes.

On the other hand a number of ship-building and maintenance companies have relocated from Western Cape to the port of Walvis Bay in Namibia.

The general secretary of the Metalworkers and Allied of Namibian Workers Union, Manwu, Justina Jonas, said: “Many companies come to Walvis Bay because they think there is cheap labour in Namibia.

The port is expanding and many of those arriving come from South Africa, with South African management staff.”

In Swaziland, our twinning programme has moved on to a new level, as we are currently working with eight unions towards a merger into a single union. This is strengthened by having an ally in Swaziland Amalgamated Trade Unions. If it works according to plan, these unions will go to a merger congress in March next year.

More work is expected in the beginning of 2013 as other regions – JCB, Ekurhuleni, Sedibeng and Hlanganani – also start their work in Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

For Numsa, this is very important because if we do not help build strong unions in the region, many of our jobs will be lost to these countries, as companies find it easy to exploit workers there.

But this is also an opportunity for us to learn new experiences of organising and making Numsa stronger.

Through this twinning programme we are also promoting direct ties between workers in the same company across borders, strengthening worker-to-worker solidarity.

This will ensure sharing of information, on new bargaining trends and agreements which should help standardise working conditions in the same company, regardless of where it operates.

Skhumbuzo Phakathis is Numsa
international officer