AN ALTERNATIVE to the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), the country’s largest union, is being formed and is being named after a Numsa forerunner, the Metal and Allied Workers Union (Mawu).
The entrance of a new union to the sector that Numsa has dominated is likely to intensify organised labour rivalry. Several unions are already in the sector, but relations have been cordial.
However, Mawu looks set to aggressively take on Numsa because of the latter’s negative posture towards the alliance between the ANC, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party (SACP).
Numsa is concerned about the economic policies adopted by the alliance, which it believes are unfriendly to workers. Former Numsa president Cedric Gina is said to be behind the formation of the union.
Gina on Wednesday denied spearheading the attempt, saying workers themselves were “strongly expressing” a desire for an alternative to Numsa .
“My sense is that there is a lot of anger over how things are unfolding in Numsa,” he said. Gina resigned as president of Numsa late last year.
Numsa said workers in Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Vanderbijlpark and parts of KwaZulu-Natal were being lobbied to join the new union.
Its new rival has a strong presence at Nissan’s Rosslyn plant, where workers were frustrated by Numsa ’s alleged failure to address concerns over possible retrenchments and being placed on short time, according to Jacob Mashego.
Mashego is a former Numsa chairman at the Rosslyn plant and is sympathetic to the new union.
The Department of Labour has confirmed that the new union had applied to organise in the sector.
Numsa deputy general secretary Karl Cloete said the new union had more to do with politics than with worker issues. He described the new movement as well-financed, small” and vociferous in its efforts to grow.
Numsa resolutions adopted at its special congress in December last year, to find an alternative to the alliance in the form of a possible workers’ party, have placed it on a collision course with the alliance partners.
Numsa is also at risk of expulsion from Cosatu due to its hard-line stance on the alliance.
The new player could replace Numsa in the Cosatu fold. – Natasha Marrian is political editor of Business Day
Ken Manners writes that South Africa is the biggest loser in the steel strike. Numsa claimed a huge victory following its sustained strike, but were there really any winners he asks?
Who won? Numsa ’s political aspirations were hugely boosted by endless press coverage. Numsa ’s leader, Irvin Jim has greatly enhanced his public image. He will certainly have won favour among the more radical elements of the political spectrum, and his future in politics is now assured. Who lost?
Every one of the 60 000 Numsa member employees in the industry. It’s on the public record that the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of SA and even the National Employers Association of SA would have conceded an upfront 8% or 9% settlement to prevent a strike at the end of last month, when the main agreement expired.
So it is clear that four weeks of sustained strike action yielded an extra one or two percentage points for employees. An average worker in this industry earning R35 an hour lost R1 400 a week for four weeks, which equals R5 600, plus lost shifts, accruing leave bonuses, benefits, etc.
So the 2% “improved” increase achieved by Numsa yielded workers an extra R112 a month for three years, which amounts to R4 032. So, monetarily, workers lost R1 568 each over three years.
All 220 000 employees in the industry, of whom 70% were not Numsa members and a great majority of whom wanted to continue working yet were forced to support Numsa ’s strike.
They lost financially in terms of the same calculations, but some also suffered physical abuse trying to go to work.
About 10 000 businesses that were forced to close their doors and lost untold sales and profit.
Non-aligned industries such as the automotive sector that had to close because their Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council-aligned suppliers were forced to stop.
The collective bargaining process, which has been tarnished, perhaps beyond recovery.
Wages. About R1.3-billion worth.
South Africa’s economy, which lost about R6-billion in gross domestic product.
The government, who lost face. Numsa underscored the signal by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union and Economic Freedom Fighters that, since the fallout between the ANC and Cosatu last year, the ANC no longer holds sway with the working class. Wages. About R1.3-billion worth. South Africa’s economy, which lost about R6-billion in gross domestic product.
Who won? Politics. Who lost? South Africa. — Ken Manners is CEO of the SP Metal Forgings Group