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Vol. 78/No. 31      September 1, 2014

South African Metalworkers
win wage hike
(front page)
Some 220,000 members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa won wage increases after a four-week strike that shut down 12,000 factories, including parts plants along with auto factories that depend on those parts. They also won improvements for some temporary workers.

The strike ended July 29. Bosses agreed to a 10 percent annual wage increase for the lowest-paid workers for the next three years and 8 percent annually for the highest paid. Most members of the union are in the lower pay grades.

The union’s demands for a 1,000-rand ($92) monthly housing allowance and an end to contracting many workers through labor brokers were not won. But according to the settlement, “employees engaged by a labour broker will be treated no differently from employees employed by an employer,” unless the bosses are granted an exemption.

“The most important thing was the salary,” Johannes Sibukwana, a warehouse worker in East Rand and member of the union negotiating committee, said by phone Aug. 19. “But the workers are not 100 percent happy. They live in shacks, sometimes in garages used for cars. Like miners here, they live far from their families and need a housing allowance.”

If you are a permanent worker and “they retrench us, we get one week pay for each year of service,” Sibukwana said. “If a worker hired by a labor broker gets terminated, they get nothing.” The union will keep fighting to end the labor broker system, he said.

“There are still some challenges,” Mlamli Dumbisa, a worker in an auto parts plant in Port Elizabeth, said by phone. “Some employers have applied for exemptions from paying the wage increase. In some plants they have locked out workers.”

“Workers still have the right to strike over issues not in the main agreement,” said Nimrod Msila who works on the assembly line at a factory in East London that makes refrigerators. “We got strength from the strike.”

The Metalworkers strike followed on the heels of a five-month strike by miners at Anglo American Platinum, Impala and Lonmin, the world’s top three platinum producers. Led by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, the workers won a 20 percent annual wage increase.
Related articles:
On the Picket Line
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