In excess of 100 factories on the East Rand of Johannesburg have resorted to shutting their doors in order to protect themselves from the threat of violence related to the Numsa strike happening currently.
National Union of Mineworkers South Africa (Numsa), who are the majority union in the metals and engineering sector in South Africa, embarked on an indefinite wage strike on Tuesday. Numsa are demanding a R15000 wage, R1000 housing allowance, and the scrapping of labour brokers, to occur over a one year period. A number of smaller unions have joined the strike.
Thus far, the Steel and Engineering Industry’s Federation of South Africa (Seifsa) have announced that they are willing to table an offer yielding between eight and ten percent in the first year. The National Employer’s Association of South Africa (Neasa) have put forward an offer of eight percent, subject to an agreement being made whereby new workers’ wages are lowered, firstly, and secondly that the industry is made more flexible.
The strike has turned violent and has resulted in the firing of rubber bullets, arrests being made, and factories and shops closing up for the time being. At least 26 people have been arrested in Gauteng alone due to violence, malicious damage to property and intimidation. The police have been monitoring the strike closely for further criminal activity.
“Although it is a protected strike and employees are allowed to picket, acts of violence will not be tolerated and police are ready to take action,” police spokesperson, Lungelo Dlamini said on Tuesday.
According to Seifsa, Kwazulu-Natal is second to Gauteng in the amount of violence occurring in the province due to striking workers. According to Kayser Nyatsumba, Seifsa’s CEO, reports are pouring in with regards to violence and intimidation and deliberate lawlessness. The reports allegedly refer to the workers who are currently on strike. He expressed his disappointment with the fact that the strike has turned violent and urged the striking workers to do so peacefully, as was agreed by the workers prior to the start of the strike.
In Johannesburg, a woman from Benoni reported seeing a man allegedly being beaten by a mob of people. “I’ve just witnessed a huge group of striking workers chase a non-worker down and beat him up. They were coming down the hill towards us,” she said.