Numsa gathers support for national strike

Johannesburg‚ March 18 (BDpro) — The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa’s (Numsa’s) “United Front” is taking shape with its first tentative steps this week as the union bids to unite organisations from across society in a 500‚000-strong strike against the Employment Tax Incentive Act and in demand of jobs for the youth.

Numsa’s detractors in the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) have described the massive strike‚ which is set to hit the metal and automotive sectors on Wednesday‚ as part of a plot to destabilise the African National Congress (ANC) ahead of the elections.

Numsa‚ at its special national congress in December‚ resolved on rolling mass action in demand of economic transformation and took decisions bucking the trajectory of the economy under the ANC-led government. Among these decisions was the setting up of a “United Front” to “co-ordinate struggles in the workplace and in communities” as well as forming a movement for socialism or a workers party.

In response in part to Numsa’s posture on the ANC‚ Cosatu on Monday released a booklet to its structures in which it outlined why workers should vote for the ANC in the upcoming polls.

Less than two months ahead of the election‚ Numsa is set to take to the streets with jobs for young people as its core demand. This comes as youth unemployment remained a key challenge identified by government and political parties in their election manifestoes.

At a media briefing on Monday‚ Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said hundreds of community groups‚ faith-based organisations‚ other unions‚ women’s groups‚ taxi associations and youth formations would down tools and gather in seven towns across the country to demand jobs for young people.

It is clear that Numsa is working outside of the Cosatu fold — the union is canvassing support from rival labour federations the Federation of Unions of South Africa and National Council of Trade Unions‚ on possibly challenging the Employment Tax Incentive Act in court.

“We are unable to take up that challenge (legal) in our own name‚ given the fact that we are not stakeholders in Nedlac (he National Economic Development and Labour Council)‚” Numsa deputy general secretary Karl Cloete said.

The union’s own federation‚ Cosatu‚ has been in “paralysis” since September 2012.

The union wanted the Employment Tax Incentive Act scrapped and it was demanding that a job seekers grant be put in place instead‚ Mr Cloete said.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said in his budget address that since the legislation was put in place‚ 56‚000 young people had benefited from it. He dismissed Numsa’s criticism last week‚ saying the union was speaking with a “forked tongue” as its members benefited from incentives in the automotive sector.

Mr Jim said Numsa did not oppose all incentives; it was against those in which the “working class is forced to subsidise capitalists”.

Mr Jim said criticism by Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini was “busy liquidating the federation” instead of championing proworker policies in the ANC.

The ANC‚ by its own admission‚ regarded the working class as the “motive force of the revolution”‚ yet on the eve of the election it “attacks the working class” by implementing electronic tolls on Gauteng highways‚ and refusing to ban labour brokers and the introduction of the Employment Tax Incentive Act.

“You must be a fool to think that you act against the working class … and as you are attacking us‚ we are going to vote for you for attacking us‚” Mr Jim said. He was adamant that the strike would be aimed at “fighting back” against the “current onslaught of the ANC government on the working class”.

The Democratic Left Front‚ nongovernmental organisation Equal Education and unions not aligned to Cosatu are set to take part in the national strike. – By Natasha Marrian © BDlive 2013

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