The South African Federation of Trade Unions pledges its full support for the many workers who are currently taking action against intransigent employers who have left the workers with no option but to strike.
The federation is heartened by workers’ growing resistance to super-exploitation, poverty wages, the use of labour brokers and attacking workers’ right to join unions. We are proud of the militant role played by SAFTU-affiliated unions in such disputes but warns that many more battles lie ahead.
The strike include:
South Point Student Accommodation
Members of the South African Industrial Commercial and Allied Workers Union (SAICWU) have been on strike since 10 September at South Point Student Accommodation in Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg.
Management has refused to bargain in good faith on the workers’ wages demands for a minimum wage of R8,500, a Provident Fund, Medical Aid, Housing allowances and the total abolition of outsourcing and all other forms of super exploitation in the workplace.
The strike, they say, “is set to continue until an agreement is reached and we emerge victorious and triumphant”.
Members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) are on strike at Fortune Steels in Nigel, where the company stubbornly refuses to improve their salaries and working conditions.
Earlier this year, NUMSA exposed Fortune Steels for exposing workers to an unsafe working environment, after a furnace exploded, injuring seven workers. Thanks to our intervention, there has been some improvements in safety.
But on key issues such as wage increases and benefits to members they continue to exploit and abuse workers, who are denied access to water and toilets as they embark on their legally protected picket.
SAFTU full supports their demands for:
· A living wage of R50 per hour, and reject the poverty wage of R20 per hour.
· Medical aid, to which the company must contribute 70%. Currently members do not receive any cover.
· A 40-hour week. Currently they are working like slaves, with daily shifts of 12 hours per day and they are not being compensated.
The employer has simply reject d al these reasonable demands and the workers say that they refuse to treat them with respect and human dignity. They are determined not to back down and that they will strike until their demands are met.
Spar Distribution Centre
On 13 September 2018, about 250 members of the Transport Retail and General Workers Union (THORN) in the Spar Distribution Centre in Jet Park embarked on a lawful and protected strike.
They were employed via two Temporary Employment Services (TES) or labour brokers – Adcorp Blu and Ziphi Nkomo Labour Hire CC – despite some having worked for Spar more than 10 years during which they and had to endure various forms of exploitation. As always the case, employees of labour brokers are not paid same wages as employees of a client company and conditions of service are not the same.
Immediately after the milestone Constitutional Court judgment in the matter between Assign Services (Pty) Ltd and NUMSA regarding labour brokers, THORN wrote to Spar asking if it was going to comply with the judgment.
Spar responded by saying that it was discussing the conversion of TES employees into permanent status with SACCAWU and made it very clear that it prefers to deal with SACCAWU and will never accept THORN, even though THORN represents a vast majority of TES employees.
THORN is not only fighting employers but also unions like SACCAWU that connive with employers in the creation of the misery of the working class. Senior management have threatened THORN members with dismissal if they do not resign and join SACCAWU!
MTN outsourced staff
Another dispute is brewing as MTN tries to get rid of 168 contract workers who are employed by companies to which MTN outsourced work at its High Value Repair Centre (HVRC) in Midrand – Atlantis Enterprise, Upstream Solutions and Infra Connect – after exploiting them for over ten years.
The Information Communication and Technology Union (ICTU) believes that these companies were used as labour brokers and it has been trying to engage with MTN since May 2018.
MTN does not deny that they are terminating their contracts with these companies but refuse to even discuss the consequent job losses, claiming that it has nothing to do with any lay-offs because the workers are employed by the outsourced companies and not by MTN.
Both the Spar and MTN disputes show how years of outsourcing work and using labour brokers has undermined workers’ rights and living standards. SAFTU has already warned that the exploitation by labour brokers will not end soon, even after the ConCourt judgment which brought hope to many vulnerable workers.
Unless workers, like these THORN members, take action to enforce the implementation of the judgement, companies that use services of brokers like Spar and MTN will perpetuate the exploitation of vulnerable workers.
They are now using various excuses and disguises to hide brokers in order to circumvent the ConCourt judgment. Employers are finding ways to wriggle out of the obligations imposed by the Concourt to employ workers supplied by labour brokers who have been actually working for the client company for three months.
Kelloggs used an even more devious tactic. 142 packers and boxmakers, who had been placed by labour broker Adcorp at the Kelloggs factory in Springs, were taken on as permanent workers in line with the ConCourt ruling on the contentious “deeming” provision in the Labour Relations Act, saw their pay double and received benefits such as medical aid and a provident fund for the first time – but then they got retrenchment letters!
SAFTU calls upon all its affiliates to unite in solidarity with these and other workers who are striking back against exploitation, poverty pay and attacks on unions who stand firm in defence of their members. Join the picket lines and prepare for solidarity actions employers fail to heed the workers’ demands!
United we stand; divided we fall!