/ 6 July 2011

Numsa says it’s ‘not a union of hooligans’

No negotiations or talks have taken place between striking engineering workers and their employers since the strike started, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) said on Wednesday.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa has embarked on a strike, following a breakdown in negotiations at the end of June. The union has vowed not to budge on its demands for a 13% across-the-board wage hike, better working conditions and a ban on labour brokers.

“When our members handed over a memorandum in Johannesburg on Monday, the employers informed marchers that they took our demands seriously and would have a meeting with us the same night,” said spokesperson Castro Ngobese.

“To date, there has been no meeting between us and them and this means the strike will continue indefinitely.”

The Steel and Engineering Industries’ Federation of SA (Seifsa) said it could not afford the 13% wage increase being demanded by the union.

Employers in the sector have offered 7%.

The union’s regional secretary in the Free State Andile Zitho said the 13% increase was a matter of life and death.

He said it was not enough to cushion workers against increases in the costs of food, electricity, education, water, and fuel.

“We are not backing off on our current demand of 13%,” said Zitho, who claimed that some senior managers were earning 20 times more than union members.

Several trade unions, representing about 170 000 workers, embarked on a countrywide strike on Monday.

The unions were demanding wage increases ranging from between 10% and 13%.

Numsa believed the unconfirmed reports of intimidation and violence reported in newspapers on Wednesday was an attempt by “some elements” to sabotage the strike action.

“Numsa is not a union of hooligans. We have disciplined and organised members,” said Ngobese.

“We are not going to allow anyone to undermine our organised, united strike.”

Seifsa executive director, David Carson, was not immediately available for comment. – Sapa