Operations in factories in major Eastern Cape towns including East London, Mthatha, Port Elizabeth and Queenstown are set for disruption today as thousands of union members are expected to stay away from work.
The South African Federated Trade Union (Saftu) – whose affiliates include the second biggest trade union in South Africa, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) – resolved to down tools today, to protest over a proposed R20 per hour minimum wage.
Numsa, whose workers are based in listed companies including Mercedes-Benz SA and Volkswagen SA in Port Elizabeth, as well as AB53 bus company in Mthatha and Queenstown, has more than 40000 members in the Eastern Cape.
“It will be a total shutdown at MBSA, VW and Isuzu, as well as motor vehicle component supplying companies such as LEAR,” said Numsa provincial secretary Mziyanda Twani.
Marches have been organised in East London, Port Elizabeth, Queenstown and Mthatha today.
Twani said in Mthatha, affected sectors would include fuelling stations as many fuel pump attendants were Numsa members.
The East London leg of the protest will see thousands of workers marching from Buffalo City College to the Labour Department offices near University Fort Hare in Oxford Street.
MBSA was busy yesterday having discussions with affected union leaders to craft a plan to make up for the hours that would be lost due to the labour action.
Head of human resources Abey Kgotle said the company was aware of the Saftu strike. “Mercedes-Benz South Africa will engage with its representative union on its plans to recover lost production which may be as a result of [today’s] stay away,” said Kgotle.
The Democratic Municipal and Allied Workers’ Union (Demawu), a breakaway union from Cosatu-aligned Samwu, is to join in today’s action.
Demawu provincial coordinator Siphiwo Ndunyana said of the thousands of members they had recruited since the formation of the union late last year, more than 800 were from Buffalo City Metro (BCM).
“These workers will form part of these protest marches, and so operations in BCM will be affected one way or another,” said Ndunyana.
The federation will also take to the streets in major metros nationally such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Polokwane to protest the proposed wage offer.
Saftu has 24 affiliates under its banner, including the Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu).
The national minimum wage was supposed to come into effect by next Tuesday (May 1), but it has been shelved as parliamentary processes considering public submissions on three bills that will give effect to the minimum wage are still under way.
Twani said their issue with the state was that the deal as it stands would mean that farm workers receive R11 an hour, domestic workers R15, and others a minimum of R20.
Numsa president Andrew Chirwa will lead the team of keynote speakers who have been deployed to rallies throughout the province.