Bosses inflicting psychological violence in plastics strike - NUMSA

Irvin Jim says his union is not responsible for the burning to death of a security guard


11 Dec, 2018

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) condemns in the strongest terms the intransigency and psychological violence the bosses are inflicting on workers in the plastics strike. By prolonging the strike from the 15th of October to date, the bosses have mercilessly guaranteed that our members starve over this period, as workers pay everyday, for any time they are on strike.

We have also had to repeatedly refute false claims made by employers in the plastics sector. The Plastic Converters of South Africa and others first launched a propaganda campaign that our strike was illegal. On the basis of that lie they launched a court application to block the strike, and it was dismissed by the Labour Court.

Now, instead of engaging meaningfully with our demands, they have been flooding media houses with unfounded, and unproven allegations of violence, intimidation and vandalism.

Consistently, they have accused NUMSA of violence. NUMSA is not a violent trade union. Our members know how to conduct themselves during a strike and on picket lines. We are an experienced and mature trade union.

We have learnt with great sadness that a security guard, Lesley Lekgalake Mphahlele, died last Tuesday after succumbing to his injuries, sustained after he was doused with petrol and set alight. We send our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones. We are grieving with his family and friends.

According to the (PCSA) Mphahlele was attacked at Herber Plastics, where he worked as a security guard, allegedly by workers participating in the strike in the plastics sector.

We are not organized at Herber Plastics where this fatality took place. We reject claims by the PCSA that NUMSA is responsible for the violence which led to the death of this worker. It is outrageous that Plastic employers are blaming us for this incident.

At the same time, the bosses continue to wreak the worst forms of brutality onto our members. They are currently trying to force us into accepting an agreement which will worsen conditions for workers. In our last engagement, talks broke down because the companies want to impose the following changes which will down vary and worsen conditions for workers:

1.     Introduction of a Regional Dispensation: Plastic employers want to introduce wage differentials to workers who are employed outside the major towns i.e. Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.  Their proposal is that those workers must earn less 10% less than their counterparts in these 3 metro towns.

2.    They want to increase wages based on the minimum wage rate, instead of based on the actual wage that a person is earning.

We fought against these proposals years ago. The racist Plastic employers have consistently fought against any progressive proposals negotiated at the Metals and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC). PCSA and others are some of the most racist employers and this is why they are the most backward and abusive employers in the sector. We reject their attempts to reverse our hard won gains.


Some of the employers in the Plastic sector are guilty of extreme abuse against our members. They expose them to unsafe working conditions with very low pay. Many of them refuse to even pay the poverty wage of R20, which they tried to impose on workers in the sector, and it is the reason our members are still on strike.

The lowest paid worker was earning R46 per hour because of agreements signed under the (MEIBC), but the proposal of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) of R20 per hour last year emboldened the employers to drastically reduce wages, and introduce R20 per hour as a minimum wage.

Employers felt justified in reducing the minimum rate because the ANC led government endorsed this low wage as a minimum wage. This is an act of economic violence.

Subjecting any human being to an existence which is not fit to sustain human life through a poverty wage of R20 per hour, is brutal, cruel and savage behaviour. Our members are being punished for almost two months now, for demanding what simply belongs to them. They are the creators of wealth. It is their sweat and back breaking labour which is responsible for the wealth generated in the economy, and the profits made by the bosses.

They are owed a Living Wage today

We urge the employers to see sense, and come back to the negotiating table, in order for us to resolve the strike.

Aluta continua!

The struggle continues!

Statement issued by Irvin Jim, NUMSA General Secretary, 11 December 2018