The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) have announced that they will be marching in Gauteng on Human Rights Day to protest against the proposed new labour laws that come into effect in May.
In a statement on Saturday, Numsa national spokesperson, Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, said the union was marching as part of a coalition of workers’ organisations that had come together as part of the “Scrap the New Labour Laws” campaign.
“The ANC government wants to change the labour law to make it impossible for workers to go on strike.”
“We call on all workers to defend this constitutional right to strike and join us as we march on March 21, to remind the state that workers’ rights are human rights,” she said.
In a statement from the campaign, also attributed to Hlubi-Majola, the changes to the legislation were blamed on recently appointed President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“The fallout of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ascension into office has begun. State capture has slipped from the grasp of the Guptas and into the familiar embrace of white monopoly capital which opened its pockets to see the end of Zuma’s misrule,” said the statement.
“Now it’s time for Ramaphosa to follow through on his promises. First amongst these promises is the passage of new labour law amendments that will see workers’ right to strike curbed, their organisations tied up by petty regulations and a national minimum wage that undercuts existing sectoral determinations.”
Right to strike under threat
Hlubi-Majola said the new laws would force workers to hold secret ballots and vote before they could go on strike.
“This will make it impossible for us to go on strike,” she said.
She said the new laws would also allow the Department of Labour to end a strike without consultation.
“The minister of labour can go to court to get an interdict to end a strike without consulting unions.”
New Minimum Wage is ‘slave wages’
Hlubi-Majola said the new laws also legalised “slave wages” through the National Minimum Wage of R20 per hour. He said Expanded Public Works workers (EPWP) would earn R11 per hour; Domestic workers R15 per hour and farm worker R18 per hour.
“We want a living wage! Why pay workers R20 per hour, when CEOs earn R8625 per hour! We reject the NMW,” she said.
Hlubi-Majola said the NMW would cause mass retrenchments.
“Numsa has managed to negotiate higher wages in many sectors it organises in. Those who earn more will lose their jobs.”
“These changes will affect every worker and their families. But we were not consulted on these decisions.”
Laws approved by ‘sell out’ unions
Hlubi-Majola said the proposals were agreed to at NEDLAC with the help of “sell out” trade unions Cosatu, Fedusa and Nactu.
“This will have a major impact on our families. First they attacked us by increasing VAT, and now they want to make it impossible for us to strike to negotiate higher wages and better working conditions.”
“They want to take away the only weapon we have to make our lives better.”
Hlubi-Majola said Numsa would continue to fight in the courts and on the streets to defend workers’ rights.
“We have joined up with 20 other progressive pro-working class movements to defend the rights of all workers, as part of the #ScrapNewLabourLaws Campaign,” she said.
The March is scheduled for Wednesday, March 21, with the assembly point at Mary Fitzgerald Square, Newtown Johannesburg.