National Union of Metal Workers South Africa (NUMSA) strike entering the second week is bad news for the South African Economy, as many small- to medium-sized companies threaten to collapse. The last wage offer was once again rejected by NUMSA. The National Employers Association of South Africa (NEASA), representing mainly small- to medium-sized business called on NUMSA to end the violent strike and openly attacked NUMSA and big business for ignoring the dangers of wrecking the economy.
NEASA warned of the continued intimidation of workers not participating in the strike and the unlawful violent acts committed by its members. The destruction and damage caused over the two-week period of the strike can have a detrimental adverse effect on workers. The continued strike and illegal actions of strikers is causing the metal industry section to suffer unrecoverable losses and result in an economic meltdown.
The national strike and work stoppage by NUMSA members demanding improved wages and working conditions continue to take a toll on the economy. The end of a recent four-month strike in the Platinum Mining Belt saw the South African Economy experience a downward trend and the new strikes spreading across the country is creating more harm than good. While the government did not intervene swiftly in the platinum strike, their speedy contribution to end the metal industry strike is a positive move and stop protest action.
The government called on NUMSA to end the violent strike and stop intimidation while NEASA has called on employees not to offer a higher wage rate, after the last rejection by NUMSA. Big businesses are pushing for an agreement to end the strike and with the intervention by the Minister of Labor, this could force smaller companies to accept an unaffordable offer. Enforcing a pay deal can stimulate the process of retrenchments and other procedures to cause the smaller companies to close and increase unemployment.
Zwelinzima Vavi, the general Secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), said the current NUMSA strike should serve as an example to other unions. Vavi hoped that an amicable and acceptable settlement would be reached and agreed the demands of Unions are justifiable. Decent wages and working conditions should be the aim of unions to achieve this on behalf of their members Vavi stated.
COSATU and the South African Communist Party (SACP) are in alliance with the African National Party (ANC) since 1994 and while NUMSA is the largest member of the COSATU group, there is instability and threats to leave the federation. Over the past three years, the NUMSA relationship has deteriorated and NUMSA is threatening to leave the COSATU association.
Vavi insists that political members should not be involved in business and supports the factor of choosing either serving in government or private business. Vavi strongly disagrees with the enrichment of officials who own business, while not considering the poor of the land.
While the unions drive the labor force of South Africa, their loyalty was more toward the ruling ANC party to enforce its will on the people. Although Vavi is not the main impetus force within the political structure and the internal COSATU battles can lead to unsure events.
Several large car manufactures have issued a stern warning that they may be moving their businesses out of South Africa should the workers continue to dictate terms and conditions not favorable for investing companies. The intimidation, strike action and constant union interference in business is causing a ruckus within the metal industry sector. The South African Economy will continue its down-slide until NUMSA accepts that the strike is indeed bad news for the country.
Opinion by Laura Oneale