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Steel workers countrywide down tools, demanding 8% wage hike

Man dies during Numsa march in Gqeberha.
Hundreds of Numsa workers marched from the Mary Fitzgerald Square to the Metals Engineering Industries Bargaining Council office in Marshalltown to hand over the memorandum of their demands on Tuesday. Imagestrike moneyweb : Masego Mafata

One person collapsed and died during the demonstration in Gqeberha as thousands of National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) members in the steel industry downed tools across the country on Tuesday, demanding a wage increase.

We followed demonstrations in Johannesburg, Durban, Gqeberha and Cape Town.

Numsa is demanding an 8% wage increase for the first year of a three year agreement among several other demands.

In Johannesburg, Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown was a sea of red as thousands of workers gathered there to mark the start of the nationwide strike. Numsa members said that negotiations with employer associations in the engineering sector had deadlocked.

The group marched from the square to the Metals Engineering Industries Bargaining Council office in Marshalltown to hand over the memorandum. Representatives from the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa and the South African Engineers and Founders Association accepted and signed the memorandum.

According to Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, Numsa spokesperson, negotiations began in June this year. “We have called for a total shutdown in the engineering sector because workers are fed up. Employer associations are refusing to negotiate in a meaningful way,” she said.

Hlubi-Majola said the deadlock is a slap in the face of workers who decided to forego a wage increase in 2020 and agreed to a standstill agreement, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Employer associations have offered a three-year agreement with a 4.4% increase for the first year. This was rejected by the union representatives.

“We will not accept 4.4%. Even 8% is small but we can make it work. The money we make is not enough. The employers can take their children to university, we can’t do that,” said Jotham Phangisa, a Numsa member.

Sizwe Ngwenya, a general worker at an engineering company in Johannesburg, said that not having a wage increase last year put a strain on his finances. “My brother lost his job last year, so now I am supporting his family and mine. We both have children. The price of food has also gone up. How are we supposed to afford it without an increase?” asked Ngwenya.

In Gqeberha, Numsa leaders confirmed the death of a member who collapsed during their demonstration on Tuesday. The worker was among about 500 people who marched from Nangoza Jebe Community Hall in New Brighton to Vuyisile Mini Square to hand over a memo of demands to their employers.

Numsa’s Mpumzi Maqungo said, “The man collapsed and had a bout of fits in New Brighton on our way to Vuyisile Mini Square. He was transported from the scene to Mercantile Hospital where he died upon admission. ”

Maqungo said, “This is the time to negotiate with [the employers] because we didn’t do so last year due to the outbreak of Covid-19. We are now going to escalate the strike with or without the Covid-19 pandemic. The National Employers Association of South Africa (NEASA) has been arrogant during negotiations.”

An employee for a company that manufactures fuel and water tankers told GroundUp that he earns R49 per hour as an artisan. He said the company also gave them R98 transport allowance per week.

“We don’t get housing allowance. Our salaries should have increased long ago. I am struggling to raise my five children from my salary.

Marchel Heynz received the petition on behalf of NEASA and promised to hand it to her superiors.

In Durban, about 2 000 workers marched from King Bhekizulu Park to the Durban City Hall.

Basil Cele, the first deputy president of Numsa said, workers will not return to work until employers agree to their demands.

KZN secretary Mbuso Ngubane added that once negotiations have been completed, they also want to be backpaid from July when the increase was meant to be implemented. He read their memorandum and gave it to employer representatives to sign.

Numsa members filled the area outside Durban City Hall on Tuesday as thousands downed tools for higher wages. Photo: Nokulunga Majola

In Cape Town, more than 250 workers protested outside the Kasselsvlei Hall in Bellville.

Regional treasurer, Nazeema Samuels said the union had planned to march, but employer organisations informed them that there were no officials available to accept the memos.

Numsa Western Cape regional chairperson Thabang Tsiboli said they are still willing to continue negotiations with employers. “We’re at the end of a new year. How can it be that workers still have not received an increase? We decided to extend negotiations to 2021, but employers are not negotiating in good faith. This strike is a last resort.”

© 2021 GroundUp. This article was first published here.

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The employers need to step up. Numsa employees didn’t receive an increase in 2020.

8% is not unreasonable.

Fire them, and the ass holes that support them.

I cannot afford to feed my 5 children on my salary. Perhaps this is also part of the problem, along with the above inflation increases from the Government SOE’s like water and electricity.

Well have less kids.. dont reproduce if you cant afford it. Typical lack of foresight.
Lets not forget that lots of people lost their jobs never mind not getting an increase. The scourge of the unrealistic unions hard at work. Go on mess up SA even more until you have nothing at all.
Cretins!

Not too long ago there was an article on the history of the Rand and how on average it has lost purchasing power of 8% per year since 1960.

So getting 8% they are actually standing still with regards to the purchasing power of salaries. Anything less than 8% their salaries are loosing purchasing power.

The workers are people too, food prices have gone up significantly.

They have families to feed and need to live also.

It is only but fair to give them a decent increase this year seeing that they accepted the no increase last year.

Which big industrial Metal factory did not pay bonusses to their management this year?

End of comments.

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