JOHANNESBURG – The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) on Monday vowed to intensify the strike against Australian miner South32 in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal, after a marathon negotiation session to resolve the strike was deadlocked.
The global mining company has an aluminium smelter in Richards Bay, South Africa.
Over 600 members of the union last week downed tools at South 32’s Hillside smelter over wages, saying that they were “fed up” with the bosses attempts to rob workers of their hard earned increases.
They demand, among others, a one-year 7.5% wage increase across the board, South 32’s contribution towards medical aid, 20% performance bonus, and R5 000 in housing allowances.
Instead, South 32 is offering a three-year wage deal where in year one workers would get a 5.1% salary increase, no salary increase in year two but a R3 083 a month or R37 000 minimum cash payment, and an inflation based increase in year three.
Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said the attitude of the management at South32 was a typical example of the racist Nationalist Party of the Apartheid government.
“This year they made a staggering $1.23-billion, but they refuse to share the gains with their employees. This company thinks our members are foolish,” Jim said.
“Instead of giving a wage increase they want to try and bribe our members with cash. Their behaviour is reminiscent of racist farm owners who pay workers using a tot system of paying with alcohol, instead of paying wages. As long as they refuse to increase the basic salary, they are stealing from our members and their families.”
For the year ending 30 June 2017, South 32 generated revenue of $6.95-billion and underlying earnings before interest, tax and depreciation of $2.4-billion, with a statutory profit of $1.2-billion.
The diversified miner more than tripled its free cash flow to $1.9-billion, strengthening its balance sheet, and finishing the year with a net cash position of $1.6-billion, an increase of $1.3-billion from the end of last financial year.
Jim said in light of the profits made by the firm, the union felt it was grossly unfair that workers must contribute 100% to medical aid and that their demands to increase wages and housing allowance were reasonable and justifiable.
“Workers are directly responsible for the success of the company. It is their sweat and toil which contributed to the massive profits that the company made. Our members simply cannot afford to carry these costs on their own whilst this company continues to maximise profits that amount to-billions of rand,” Jim said.
“Numsa members have resolved not to return to work until management treats our members with the dignity that they deserve.”