NEWS & ANALYSIS

Decision to deregister AMCU condemned – Irvin Jim

NUMSA says Dept of Labour doesn't want to work with unions to overcome challenges, they just come out guns blazing

NUMSA condemns Labour Department for intending to deregister AMCU

26 April 2019

NUMSA, as a matter of principle, is shocked and dismayed by the Department of Labour’s (DoL) intention to deregister AMCU as a union. We want to put it on record that as the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, we reject – with the contempt it deserves – that a democratic government, instead of working with the unions to overcome whatever challenges that confront AMCU, its first stated intention is to come out guns blazing, making its intention clear that it wants to deregister the union.

Whilst NUMSA understands that all unions need to be compliant with the DoL’s requirements, we have had experiences where the DoL should have been expected to act on particular affiliates but, instead, it moves at a snail’s pace.  We are not convinced that the DoL has exhausted its options in finding solutions between itself and AMCU.

However, it is also NUMSA’s firm view that the no-nonsense attitude adopted by the DoL against trade unions should be adopted by the DoL against employers who are union-bashers and also hold back subscriptions from the union; they should adopt the same attitude towards employers who withhold and do not pay workers’ contributions to pensions and provident funds; they should adopt the same attitude towards employers who refuse to pay workers a living wage, and employers who don’t comply with occupational health and safety standards, openly compromising the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The DoL must be consistent in its approach.

NUMSA has not seen the DoL dealing decisively with these backward and primitive employers, some of whom have been attacking the hard-won gains and benefits of workers. Employers who have made it their mission to undermine collective bargaining and destroy collective bargaining agreements. To be honest, the DoL has been a toothless dog on this front.

Behind AMCU are mineworkers who – in the past two decades – continue to be victims of a stubborn, apartheid migrant labour system where workers in the mining sector continue to be paid apartheid, colonial, wages which the ANC government (which runs the DoL) has failed to destroy or to uproot. Instead, it introduced a slavery, national minimum wage of R20 an hour setting a precedent which is used by the very same conservative, backward employers across various sectors of the economy to vary down the wages and benefits of workers.

It is against this background that NUMSA, as a matter of principle and from a working class, political ideological clarity, views the intention by the DoL to quickly deregister AMCU as not politically neutral. The reason is very simple: the ANC government, for the past 25 years has consistently acted in the interest of the capitalist class which exploits the workers in refusing to nationalize all our commanding heights and minerals under the control of the working class; in refusing to nationalize all the mines; in refusing to impose a real National Minimum Wage which must be a living wage and, in destroying the Apartheid wage gap which continues in South Africa.

It was mineworkers in Marikana who embarked on a strike at Lonmin – an action which led to them being massacred by the very same Capitalist ANC government. Our members at ArcelorMittal in Vanderbjilpark have been on a 2-month strike fighting that Arcelormittal must comply with the constitutional court judgement which was very instructive that if you work for a labour broker, after 3 months you must be made permanent and enjoy all the benefits. This very same DoL has failed to regulate labour brokers, whilst the Capitalist ANC government, refuses to ban them. It is a fact that labour brokers are parasites. They take all the profit, but they do none of the work, therefore, they should not exist.

Our members at Foskor in Richards Bay are on a strike which has been going on for more than a month. One of the demands is over the lack of a safe working environment, again the DoL has failed to ensure compliance.

Recently, there has been a long protracted strike at Sibanye Gold Mines which also lasted for a period of more than 5 months which has been led by AMCU. It is against this background that NUMSA condemns the quick deregistration of AMCU and we are calling on the Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant, to meet with the leadership of AMCU to sort out the current impasse which involves administrative issues.

NUMSA cannot keep silent in what appears to be collusion between the government and mining bosses to defeat mineworkers.

Aluta continua!

The struggle continues!

Issued by Irvin Jim, NUMSA General Secretary, 28 April 2019