South Africa: 260,000 workers on strike

South African workers take to the streets in May 2007
South African workers take to the streets in May 2007

Striking workers in the metal and engineering industries said yesterday it was time they got a slice of the profits that they worked so hard to create.

Submitted by Ed on July 11, 2007

More than 9000 metal and engineering companies were affected by industrial action as 260000 workers took to the streets yesterday demanding a 10% increase for lower grade workers and 9percent for higher grade workers. Employers are offering between 7.3% and 7.8%.

The strike comes smack in the middle of massive construction projects such as the building of stadiums for the 2010 Soccer World Cup and the government’s massive infrastructural roll-out. It is feared that the strike could result in a shortage of metal products.

The workers marched to the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council offices in downtown Johannesburg.

The strike was initiated over the weekend after wage talks between unions and employers in the sector failed to reach an agreement.

“We are here because we are tired of earning peanuts doing back-breaking work while companies make huge profits.

“We are going to bring the industry to a standstill if our demands are not met,” said National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) general-secretary Silumko Nondwangu. He also said the unions would not settle for anything less than the 10% they are demanding.

The unions also demand an improved shift allowance, four weeks severance pay and leave enhancement pay. The striking workers belong to Solidarity, Numsa and the United Association of South Africa.

A memorandum was handed over to the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa’s (Seifsa) executive director Brian Angus, who said employers would study the demands. Seifsa is the body representing employers in the sector.

Meanwhile in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, workers did not join the strike yesterday, instead they stayed away from work and gathered in local community halls.

Eastern Cape Numsa secretary Irvin Jim said the organisation did not get permission in time to embark on a march. He said that they would engage in public marches on Thursday.