Numsa remains steadfast on strike

The union has revised its wage demands from 12 to 15%.

Around 200,000 Numsa-affiliated members embarked on a wage strike on 1 July. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - While the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has condemned the violence and intimidation that has characterised its wage strike, the union says it will continue striking indefinitely until its demands are met.

Around 200,000 workers downed tools in the metals and engineering sector on 1 July.

The union was initially demanding a 12 percent wage increase, a R1,000 housing allowance, career and training opportunities for all workers and the banning of labour broking and has vowed to cripple the metal and automotive industries if its demands are not met.

But have now revised the wage demand to 15 percent.

The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (Seifsa) offered the union a three-year wage deal of between 8 and 10 percent, but this offer was rejected on Thursday night

Numsa spokesperson Castro Ngobese says, "If the employer really wants to [end] this strike he must come to the bargaining table with the 15 percent as demanded by our members."

The metalworkers union's wage strike has dealt a further blow to an economy damaged by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu)'s crippling work stoppage in the platinum industry that only ended on 23 June.

The strike action is expected to cost the economy over R280 million a day in lost output.

Credit ratings agency Moody's said last week the labour unrest would consign South Africa to a third consecutive year of sub-par growth and posed risks for its rating.

It's hoped wage negotiations will resume this week.

Meanwhile, Numsa in the Western Cape said it is planning to meet with striking workers either today or tomorrow.

The union's regional secretary Vuyo Lufele said, "We expect to have a regional council [meeting] on Monday or Tuesday, just to brief our comrades and give them feedback on developments and we'll see from there if the march with continue."

INTIMIDATION AND THEFT

The strike has seen widespread intimidation and theft, especially on the East Rand.

A number of factory owners and non-striking workers were assaulted last week and millions of rands worth of computers, office equipment and other belongings were damaged and stolen.

#NumsaStrike This factory owner was assaulted inside his business premises yesterday. @Ngobeni007 reporting pic.twitter.com/s5jpDpSMEc

#NumsaStrike This factory owner was severely assaulted. @Ngobeni007 reporting pic.twitter.com/ARSANFKXMs

GRAPHIC #NumsaStrike This factory owner declined to be identified fearing further victimisation. @Ngobeni007 reporting pic.twitter.com/yc4rBJzhvk

A heavily pregnant woman was among several people assaulted.

Seifsa says many employers represented by the federation had reported "serious incidents of violence" by strikers, including damage to property and assaults on those reporting for work.

Business owners in industrial areas on the East Rand have told workers to stay at home for now.

A factory owner says he was assaulted even though he isn't in the metals and engineering industry but he is not taking any chances.

"I am in the plastics recycling industry; I have nothing to do with metal. Me and five of my staff were inside and they came in and beat me with an iron rod and knobkerrie and were throwing broken pieces of brick at me."

He says he won't reopen his factory until he can ensure the safety of his employees.

The police have assured businesses that they will be safe but a number of factory owners say private security companies are to thank for keeping them safe and not the police.

Twenty six people have been arrested in connection with the violence.

At the same time, Solidarity has urged the union to call its members to order.

Gideon du Plessis, General Secretary of Solidarity, said Numsa should restrain its members.

"We plead with Numsa to start showing leadership. They have proven that they can be a populist union and must now prove that they can be a highly ethical union and must rather settle sooner rather than later to save them the embarrassment and prevent them from destroying the economy even further