/ 11 July 2011

Chemical workers join strike

Chemical workers are set to join the engineering strike on Monday.

The Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood, and Allied Workers’ Union (Ceppwawu) and General Industries Workers’ Union of South Africa (Giwusa) last week indicated that their members would embark on the strike from Monday.

The unions were joining the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), the Metal and Electrical Workers’ Union (Mewusa), United Association of South Africa (Uasa), Solidarity and the South African Equity Workers’ Association (Saewa)

Ceppwawu and Giwusa are demanding a minimum salary of R6 000 a month and a 40-hour working week.

Strike action by these unions could see supplies of medicine and fuel interrupted.

Members of the unions, which represent about 170 000 workers, started a countrywide engineering strike on June 4.

National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim said on Sunday that the negotiating parties had begun to take one another seriously.

Claim of ‘psychological violence’
“It’s a process that is under way, [and] we will report back to members about it. At an appropriate time we will be able to know what is the status of that process,” Jim said after the union’s national executive committee meeting on Sunday.

He said the employers should be moving with speed to resolve the dispute instead of embarking on “psychological violence”.

“Employers have bombarded unions with the view of labour-output ratio comparisons between South Africa and China. They claim that South African workers are paid four times higher and are two to five times less productive than their Chinese counterparts.”

Jim said employers should not use skills training as leverage to justify underpaying workers, and challenged the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation to ensure that workers obtained the necessary skills to make them as competitive as their international counterparts.

Also of concern to the union were reports that directors received 23% salary increases this year and bonus hikes of up to 56%, while workers struggled with lower salaries and the high cost of living. – Sapa