Numsa Press Conference Statement, Numsa Head Office, Johannesburg, June 1 2009
1. The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has called this Press Conference in order to raise a number of issues, which we believe are of national importance. We at Numsa wish to note that there is now no dispute that South Africa is in a recession. We have a serious economic crisis on our hands, which now threatens to dangerously compound our inherited Apartheid crisis of mass unemployment, massive inequalities and deepening poverty among millions of South Africans.
2. While there has been some in this country, including among leaders of the Liberation Movement, who believed that the global crisis of capitalism would not seriously affect our country, it is now a fact that all key economic and social indicators point to the fact that South Africa has entered upon a recession whose magnitude and duration we are all yet to learn.
3. Organising in the auto, motor, engineering, tyre and rubber, among other manufacturing sectors, Numsa has known for quite some time now, through the massive job losses, closures of thousands of firms operating in our sectors, the placement of thousands of metalworkers on short time and the continued threats of ongoing retrenchments and actual retrenchments of thousands of metalworkers, the forced offers of voluntary severance packages to workers; that our country was facing a grave economic crisis.
4. Millions of South African workers - both in and out of employment - are struggling to pay rent, service their mortgages, pay medical and food bills, settle their children's school fees and other financial obligations; these and many such problems have led to great personal stress among workers, families and communities.
5. We simply fail to understand why the Reserve Bank Governor can choose to fail to simply receive a Petition, from workers suffering from such extreme social and economic traumas.
6. We at Numsa are convinced that the Comrade Jacob Zuma led new administration of South Africa has its job cut-out: this administration has to deal urgently with the matter of stopping the ongoing job bloodbath, even as it simultaneously grapples with our inherited massive and many sided Apartheid social and economic crises.
7. It is within this context that the National Office Bearers of Numsa wishes to condemn in the strongest terms the decision by the Governor of the Reserve Bank of South Africa to refuse to accept a Petition from Numsa on Wednesday the 27th May 2009. We find this act arrogant, and unacceptable, in any democracy.
7. It is the democratic and Constitutional right of any union in this country to peacefully demonstrate and deliver petitions to any public and Constitutional holder of office. Mr. Tito Mboweni failed to discharge his public duty when he failed to either directly receive the Petition, or send his representative to do so. Numsa will be seeking an explanation for this conduct, from the Governor of the Reserve Bank of South Africa.
8. We wish to inform Mr. Mboweni and all public and Constitutional office holders that the precedent set by Mr. Mboweni must never, ever be employed: anyone who rejects peaceful demonstrations and refuses to accept Petitions from the South African working class who are currently experiencing extreme economic and social difficulties not of their own making is inviting big trouble. You are warned.
9. The National Office Bearers of Numsa have noted the comments in the media apparently made by the General Secretary of the African National Congress, Comrade Mantashe, at the just ended National Union of Mineworkers of South Africa (NUM) Congress over the Numsa protest at the Reserve Bank. We will accordingly approach the ANC General Secretary, and engage him on the matters he raised.
10. From the 11th to the 14th of May 2009, Numsa held its Mini National Congress to complete the unfinished business of the October 2008 Numsa National Congress. Among some of the important observations, decisions and Resolutions adopted at the Numsa Mini Congress are the following:
a. The Alliance
i. More than at any other time since 1994, to defend the revolutionary gains, the Alliance needs to be united. Numsa will play its revolutionary role in ensuring that the Alliance remains united, and in extending and deepening its victories throughout the country.
ii. Numsa noted the important role played by the working class in returning the ANC to government with a resounding victory.
iii. The Mini Congress noted the regrouping of, and the continued resistance to transformation of the party of monopoly capital in the form of the Democratic Alliance that wants to use the Western Cape as a counter-revolutionary base against the ANC government and liberation
b. New Numsa National Leadership
i. The Mini Congress expressed satisfaction and confidence in the initiatives thus far undertaken by the national leadership of Numsa to combat job losses including the National Jobs Security Conference and the ongoing regional Jobs Security Conferences.
ii. The Mini Congress further endorsed the need to campaign to increase social spending and speed up service delivery in areas such as housing, education, health, communication and transport, including the provision of affordable water and electricity.
c. Defending jobs
i. In the NUMSA NEC held on 17 - 18 February 2009 we took stock of the capitalist crises and the struggle for socialism and resolved that;
"NUMSA and the federation must push and drive the perspective that another world is possible and that therefore the slogan Socialism is the Future Build it Now must be concretized in concrete programs in the current period".
ii. In the spirit of this resolution, the Mini-Congress endorsed the need to push for radical changes to our current macro-economic framework, including the adoption of such measures that allow for more accountability of the Reserve Bank, dramatic lowering of interest rates, a rejection of inflation targeting and tightening of exchange controls.
iii. The Congress also endorsed the need to increase social spending and speed up service delivery in areas such as housing, education, health, communication and transport, including the provision of affordable water and electricity.
iv. On the establishment of the government National Planning Commission (NPC) this Congress calls on labour to discuss the nature and form of interaction between the new body; the Ministries of Economic Development, Ministry of Finance, Department Trade Industry (DTI); and National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC). In these discussions NUMSA will ensure that the new planning commission does not lead to a bureaucratized system that militates against participatory democracy.
d. The NEDLAC Framework on the global economic crisis
i. While Numsa supports the Nedlac facilitated "National Framework for South Africa's Response to the International Economic Crisis" it notes, however, that there are no, or insufficient financial resources dedicated to dealing with the global crisis of capitalism.
ii. Numsa demands that with the opportunity presented by the reorganisation of the national administration, meaningful budgetary allocations need to be made to effectively respond to the crisis.
iii. Such a budgetary allocation will ensure that the following, among other things, are done:
- Jobs are subsidised;
- Funds for training and re-skilling workers are made immediately
- All the decisions NUMSA made at its National Jobs Security Conference are effected; and
- All necessary social support is available to the affected workers.
e. NUMSA Jobs Security Conference
i. Congress endorsed the decisions of Numsa's National and Provincial Job Security Conferences and their efficient implementation.
ii. These decisions call for an industrial strategy to transform the colonial and apartheid structure of the economy in the interests of the majority.
iii. Congress endorsed the outcomes of these jobs conferences that include the following:
* Industrial policy
There must be a much stronger industrial policy focus involving increased tariffs to the maximum possible under WTO rules; the scrapping of discriminatory pricing that undermines growth of downstream industries; a drive to increase local content to 75% and substantially better funding for research and development from government.
* Trade policy
Numsa calls for a review and revision of tariffs to protect industry and for export finance to be made available to other sectors outside of the automotive sector.
* Procurement policy in the public and private sector
Given the difficulties that we are confronted with as an economy, we should leverage the capital expenditure programme through our procurement policies. All procurement policies must prioritise job creation and retention and must be linked to South Africa's alternative industrialising agenda. If there exists no immediate capacity to produce goods and services locally, attempts to have the product assembled in South Africa should be our fallback position. Such an arrangement must involve the transfer of skills.
* Black economic empowerment (BEE)
Numsa resolved that BEE should be about spreading resources to historically disadvantaged communities so that it can become Broad-based BEE. The kind of BEE that discourages local manufacturing should be condemned and instead the state must assist historically disadvantaged communities and individuals to own entities rather than relying on banks. Numsa agreed that no shop stewards should engage in BEE deals because this leads to a conflict of interests.
* Company bailouts
The state must implement urgent measures to bail out any company facing closure. It should also make available credit guarantees, low interest and emergency bridging loans to companies. Such bailouts must however be conditional on a moratorium on retrenchments, union agreement and disclosure of relevant company information and maximisation of local content in production. A state agency is required to undertake investigation of company finances as part of the process.
* Public Transport
The Union supports government's intention to develop an adequate public transport system that is efficient, safe, affordable and accessible for the working class. NUMSA will support efforts aimed at transforming the public economy, including all measures aimed at quickly resolving all the outstanding matters between municipalities and taxi operators.
Numsa welcomes the possibility to introduce better passenger transport via the production of buses and rail coaches. However Numsa is concerned over the orders that have been placed (including those for 2010 and the BRT system) and urges urgent engagement with the authorities on the urgent need to invest in and develop the manufacture of locally produced buses and rail coaches. Numsa demands that all new buses and coaches must be produced locally. There must be no excuse from municipalities for not ensuring that this happens.
We are calling for a review of the incentives to be provided under the Automotive Production Development Programme (APDP). Support under this auto sector incentive scheme must be conditional on a guarantee of decent jobs. Employers should not use contract or casual workers, nor labour brokers or suppliers who use labour brokers. Production under the scheme must be kept in SA to keep volumes high and reduce imports.
Importation of luxury vehicles should be ended and 70% of all components and inputs to cars produced under the MIDP/APDP must be locally produced. Government should renew its fleet of vehicles with cleaner vehicles to boost production. Companies that bring in fully built up vehicles should be penalized.
* Infrastructure programmes
Numsa is demanding that all major programmes to be implemented by government to boost jobs and the economy must have a localised focus and should include rural areas. Workers must be formally employed by government and paid a living wage.
* Short-time, layoffs and retrenchments
In such cases, full wages must be guaranteed by government. People must be kept in their homes under a moratorium on foreclosures (evictions).
Time off should be used for training on hard skills and recognition of prior learning accelerated to allow extended training of artisans. A Work Security Fund should be established across all sectors
Numsa's proposals include the establishment of a Union technical training college; the revival of regional accreditation centres; reinstatement of a 1:4 artisan: apprentice ratio and improved incentives for employers to train workers.
* A solidarity economy
Cooperatives should be encouraged and supported to absorb retrenched workers. Government should help set up a coop support agency. Other important measures should include implementation of affordable universal health coverage; community-based childcare facilities, laundries and food programmes; and a speed up rollout of ARVs.
* Nationalisation of key or viable industries under threat
Companies threatened with closure and still viable should be taken over by government or be assisted to form cooperatives. Key sectors producing strategic raw materials e.g. steel, oil, should be considered for nationalisation.
* Green jobs
Numsa must lead in the creation of 'green jobs' and campaign for funding for cleaner vehicles.
* Social campaigns and labour brokers
NUMSA is aware that trade union activity is insufficient in the current situation. NUMSA should lead broad community rolling mass action campaigns to defend jobs, ban labour broking and for the extension of consumer rights. Numsa warns employers to beware the giant metalworkers union has lost patience with bad employment relations.
* Amendments to LRA
Numsa is calling for Section 189A to apply to everyone.
* Turning the global crisis into opportunities for global solidarity
i. Neo-liberalism has collapsed. Numsa resolved to engage in all international platforms to win the fight against tendencies that continue to defend the Washington Consensus from being consigned to the dustbin of history.
ii. We have used the just ended International Metalworkers Federation (I.M.F) Conference in Sweden as an excellent opportunity for metal workers internationally to advance a revolutionary working class alternative to global capitalism.
iii. We will also be talking to the Left to hold an international Conference of the Left to develop alternatives to neo-liberal policies.
i. The working class is under massive attack from the failed global neo-liberal capitalism.
ii. Workers are being retrenched, placed on short time, forced to accept worthless voluntary severance packages and all such similar cost serving measures.
iii. Workers are struggling with massive personal debts. The costs of food, transport, health, rent and all social services are rising every day.
iv. Poverty is deepening.
v. We fear that the crisis of capitalism will be used by the bosses to pit workers against each other.
vi. We in Numsa are resolute that we will combat all forms of discrimination and exploitation and abuse of the working class, irrespective of their country of origin. This is what our Numsa Constitution charges us to do.
vii. In this regard, Numsa will actively combat any manifestations of xenophobia within our ranks, in our factories and communities.
i. We at Numsa are aware that history imposes on our shoulders a huge responsibility of defending the working class gains and to deepen our hegemony in society. To achieve all these things mentioned above, we have to work with all progressive and genuine democratic forces in our communities, country and in the world. We have to defend the liberation movement and it's Alliance.
ii. As a revolutionary union, we remain convinced that history is on the side of the toiling masses. They shall triumph in the end, no matter now long, and bitter the struggle may be.
We trust that the media will truthfully and objectively report on this, our Press Conference.
Statement issued by Irvin Jim, General Secretary of NUMSA, June 1 2009
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