The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 78/No. 27      July 28, 2014

(front page)
Strike by parts workers shuts
other factories in South Africa
Reuters/Rogan Ward
Striking members of National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa at rally in Durban July 1 point at workers on construction site who are not taking part in strike. More than 220,000 workers walked off job to demand end to labor broker system and wage increases.

The strike by more than 220,000 workers in South Africa is having a widening impact. General Motors closed its assembly plant in Port Elizabeth July 3. Ford announced July 14 it had suspended production at its Pretoria plant, and Toyota closed three lines at its factory in Durban the following day. BMW South Africa has cut production by at least one-third. The walkout follows on the heels of a successful five-month strike by platinum miners.

Workers organized by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa downed their tools July 1. The strike is centered in factories making parts for the mine, auto and telecommunications industry.

The Metalworkers union is demanding a one-year contract, a 12 percent wage increase, an end to the use of labor brokers and a R1,000 ($93) monthly housing allowance. The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa, the main bosses association, offered a 10 percent raise the first year, 9.5 percent the second year and 9 percent the third year, but refused to discuss getting rid of the labor brokers or providing a housing allowance.

Workers hired by brokers earn lower wages and have no medical insurance or pensions, even though they work the same jobs with the same hours and conditions as workers employed directly by the struck companies.

Working people have been hit hard by rising prices. The annual inflation rate rose to 6.6 percent in May, the highest rate since July 2009. Food prices are rising 9 percent per year and gas prices 14 percent.

In a press release July 13, Metalworkers General Secretary Irvin Jim said the union was “ready to end the current strike with a one-year agreement and a 10 percent wage increase.” But the steel and engineering bosses refused to budge from their insistence on a three-year contract or increase their wage offer. “We met the bosses this morning and rejected their final offer,” Mphumzi Maqungo, national treasurer of the Metalworkers union, told the Militant by phone from Johannesburg July 14.

Direct talks between the bosses and the union broke down July 14. The following day, Jim said that to demand an immediate “ban” of labor brokers may be “too rough,” according to Business Day Live. “Here we are saying to them, we are willing to give you a year to phase it out if you are under pressure.”

The union and the bosses will continue talks sponsored by the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council, a government labor board.

The Metalworkers strike follows the victory scored by platinum miners organized by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union in a five-month battle against the three largest platinum companies in the world. Over 70,000 miners struck Jan. 23, returning to work June 25, after approving a three-year contract that included 20 percent annual wage increases.
Related articles:
Oppose boss assault on Long Island Rail Road workers!
On the Picket Line
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home