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NUMSA vows to intensify strike against South 32

5 October 2017, Posted in Press Releases

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) has vowed to intensify the strike against South 32 in Richardsbay, Kwa-Zulu Natal. NUMSA met with senior management at the plant on Sunday in an attempt to resolve the strike. After a marathon negotiating session it became clear that the COO of Africa operations, Mike Fraser and his team, feel nothing but disdain for workers and their families. They refuse to increase salaries despite having made over a billion dollars in profits this year alone. The attitude of the management at South 32 is a typical example of the racist Nationalist Party of the Apartheid government. They do not value the life of Black and African workers. Instead they view workers and our members in particular, as nothing more than cheap labour which must be exploited, to satisfy their unending greed. Like typical exploiters, they want to squeeze them like cranberry juice.

This year they made a staggering 1.23 billion U.S. dollars, but they refuse to share the gains with their employees. This company thinks our members are foolish. Instead of giving a wage increase they want to try and bribe our members with cash. Their behavior is reminiscent of racist farm owners who pay workers using a tot system of paying with alcohol, instead of paying wages. As long as they refuse to increase the basic salary, they are stealing from our members and their families. In fact as far as we are concerned, their position is criminal. Management has made it clear that even though it has the money, it will not increase salaries in a meaningful way.

In light of the profits made by the firm we feel it is grossly unfair that workers must contribute 100% to medical aid. The fact that employees must pay their bonds with absolutely no subsidy from this company is also not acceptable. As far as the company is concerned, all costs must be covered by the total cost to company package.

In this context we believe that our demands to increase wages, as well as the demand for a contribution towards medical aid and housing are reasonable and justifiable. In

South Africa the majority of workers support several extended family members, because Capitalisms failure has resulted in high unemployment and poverty. Thanks to the government’s decision to commodify public transport, our members spend over 40% of their wages on public transportation. Because of the dangerous work our members do, they must be on medical aid, but because the company makes no contribution, the high costs have a material impact on their day to day survival.

Workers are directly responsible for the success of the company. It is their sweat and toil which contributed to the massive profits that the company made. Our members simply cannot afford to carry these costs on their own whilst this company continues to maximize profits that amount to billions of rand. The treachery of Frazer’s actions lie in his decision to make a corporate decision, unheard of in the history of industrial relations in South Africa, to deny workers wage increases to improve their basic pay. Instead he and the team at South 32 have chosen to replace that with the crumbs of a lump sum payment. It is also clear that the company’s long term strategy is to pay new workers who are joining the sector lower wages than those who are currently employed. They intend to down vary the basic conditions. They are no different to the plastics employer association, NEASA, with their right wing racist agenda. As NUMSA we reject this with the contempt it deserves, because our members have the right to improve their wages, especially when they have generated profits for the bosses and shareholders of the company.

We also view this as an attack on the trade union and its right to bargain on behalf of its members. Fraser and his team are extremely patronizing of workers at the firm. They presume to know what is good for workers and their families, and they are unwilling to engage with what employees are demanding. This company is determined to take away the right of workers to improve their wages. Clearly South 32 have yet to let go of the old apartheid ‘baaskap’ racist mentality where a bunch of white managers can decide what is good for Black workers and Africans, just like this company has unilaterally decided they no longer have a right to receive wage increases. As far as we are concerned this position is indeed backward and primitive.

We are reliably informed that South 32 is also using scab labour from Mozambique in an effort to undermine the strike. They are housing them in sweat shop like conditions, as workers live and work in the plant. We are calling on the Department of Labour and Home Affairs to stop this provocation which is completely illegal from a NUMSA stand point. South 32 is creating a crisis which will inevitably lead to xenophobia amongst workers and possibly violence. We demand that the inspectors visit the plant to ensure that these workers are not being exploited.

NUMSA members have resolved not to return to work until management treats our members with the dignity that they deserve. They need to stop patronizing workers. Our

demands are clear; cash payouts will not make a meaningful improvement in the lives of workers and their families. South 32 wishes to turn workers financial slaves, who must be dependent on debt in order to survive. We reject this with the contempt it deserves. We are inspired by the words of Marxist Revolutionary and former president of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara who said :

“Under its current form, that is imperialism-controlled, debt is a cleverly managed re-conquest of Africa, aiming at subjugating its growth and development through foreign rules. Thus, each one of us becomes the financial slave, which is to say a true slave…”

We are fighting for genuine radical economic transformation for all workers and their families at South 32. They should not have to live with the burden of struggling to make ends meet, when it is their sweat and toil which is responsible for the growth of the business. We call on all workers to join us in this legal protected strike as we fight for genuine financial freedom for them and their families!

Aluta continua!
The struggle continues Issued by Irvin Jim NUMSA General Secretary

For more information contact: Phakamile Hlubi
NUMSA National Spokesperson (Acting) 0833767725

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