Numsa slams lack of member support rumours

Irvin Jim says the amount of support the union is received is not the reason they're postponing the launch.

FILE: Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim. Picture: Sapa

JOHANNESBURG - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa ( Numsa) has denied that the launch of its united front has been postponed due to a lack of support, saying it first needs to clarify what the movement is for.

Numsa has concluded its last central committee meeting for the year in which it resolved to press ahead with a court challenge to its expulsion.

Numsa says instead of the united front launch this week, it will convene a people's assembly.

Numsa's Irvin Jim says the amount of support the union's united front has received is not the reason they're postponing the launch.

"The response on the united front call has been very big to a point where we could be launching this weekend."

The union's president Andrew Chirwa says this weekend's meeting will define what the new movement is.

"One of the things the assembly will be doing on Saturday and Sunday is to start the process of adopting a concept document about the ideas of Numsa as a united front."

The new launch has been set down for April next year.

Jim says while they are appealing their expulsion from Congress of South African Trade Unions ( Cosatu), his union has not been invited to attend the second attempt at unity talks by the African National Congress (ANC).

An intervention led by the ANC failed to prevent a split between Cosatu unions with Numsa being expelled by 33 votes to 24 at a meeting last month.

Eight of Numsa's allies in Cosatu subsequently refused to take part in the federation's meetings and have warned that if the metalworkers do not return to the fold, a mass walkout is on the cards.

Jim says they still believe the ANC engineered Numsa's expulsion.

"As Numsa we have agreed we will not boycott participation in a discussion that seeks to unite the federation. As to whether the ANC will be the one who will facilitate we have not been called, we did hear about it, but we have not yet been called."

The South African Communist Party (SACP) has again accused Jim of sowing divisions in the trade union movement because of his desire to run Cosatu.

Addressing delegates at the Young Communist League's congress in Bellville today, the SACP's Blade Nzimande says in the run up to the ANC's Mangaung National Elective Conference, Jim was lobbying for Cosatu General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi to be elected the ruling party's Deputy President.

"They left in the middle of the night by Nkandla to go and ask the president of the ANC to make sure that comrade Vavi gets elected as the Deputy President of the ANC."

Nzimande says Jim wanted to take over Vavi's position in Cosatu.

"It's about personalised ambition because Jim wanted Vavi to go so that Jim can become the general secretary of Cosatu."

Numsa says it has spent R2.5 million supporting 500 of its members who are still locked out of their workplaces following this year's engineering strike.

In July, Numsa launched a strike by about 200,000 of its members in the automotive and steel industries across the country.

After Numsa settled on a 10 percent wage hike with the majority employer, Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (Seifsa), the body representing smaller companies, National Employers Association of South Africa (Neasa) refused to follow suit.

Last week Numsa won a labour court bid to have the agreement extended to Neasa companies and says it will call on the minister of labour to do so as soon as possible.

Jim says, "Thousands of our members have suffered lockouts for a long time from factories organised by Neasa, as a union we have responded by providing some financial assistance."