UNIONS must ditch any wage talks based on percentage increases, even if they are in the double digits, and instead make a co-ordinated push for a nationwide minimum wage, suspended Congress of South African Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Monday.Speaking in his personal capacity at a National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa Numsa rally in Randburg, Mr Vavi said unions should push the state to implement what is calculated to be a minimum liveable salary of R4,500 a month.
“We must talk about money; when unions receive 9% or 7% this is misleading every time, and we are opening the gap between workers and these bosses,” said Mr Vavi.Mr Vavi’s comments to striking workers in the automotive retail sector come during a rancorous strike season that has seen unions push for, and in some cases receive, double-digit increases.Some 70,000 Numsa members in the automotive retail sector, which includes petrol pump attendants, auto-body workers as well as workers in the component manufacturing sector, downed tools on Monday after negotiations with the Fuel Retailers Association and the Retail Motor Industry Organisation deadlocked.
Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim encouraged non-Numsa affiliates to join the strike and said the strike would continue indefinitely, until the union’s demands, for among other things, a double-digit percentage pay increase, were met.Earlier, Numsa spokesman Castro Ngobese said the union was holding marches around the country to urge employers in the sector to return to the negotiating table.Numsa is demanding double-digit increases, improved shift allowances including a night-shift allowance of 20%, and an afternoon shift allowance of 15%.In the vehicle manufacturing sector, Numsa members returned to work on Monday after getting a multi-year double-digit wage increase of 11.5% for this year and 10% for both next year and 2015.
In the gold sector, a strike by the National Union of Mineworkers NUM came to an end on Sunday night, when striking workers at Harmony Gold returned to mineshafts. The NUM had signed off on a wage deal of between 7.5% and 8.5%.Gold producers on Monday reported that all operations across the sector had normalised. But NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said the union was “unhappy with the propaganda” being put out by producers, saying workers at Harmony Gold operations were still not keen on the revised offer.