PE footwear workers step up fight over pay
Staff join national counterparts in stayaway over wage offer
Hundreds of workers in the footwear industry in Nelson Mandela Bay have heeded the call to join the national wage strike which began on Monday.
This comes after wage negation deadlocked last month.
Employers have put forward an offer of a 6.25% increase while the unionised members are demanding 9.5%.
The wage increase in the footwear sector was meant to take effect from July 1.
The five Nelson Mandela Bay firms affected by the strike are Bagshaw Footwear, Little Slipper, Fred Footwear, Golden Thread Footwear and RV Footwear.
The striking employees are affiliated to the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu) and the National Union of Leather and Allied Workers (Nulaw).
On Tuesday, several workers gathered in North End where they chanted and sang struggle songs demanding a living wage.
Mninimzi July, a Nulaw union official, said it was prepared to negotiate further.
“But the management is not toeing the line. If that is their attitude, we are therefore left with only one option – to intensify the struggle of the workers,” July said.
Sharidene Jamieson, Sactwu shop steward at the BBF Safety Group – the mother company of Bagshaw Footwear in Port Elizabeth – said her members were initially prepared to settle for an 8.5% increase but there was a dispute between employer representatives and the unions.
“Everybody is affected by this strike but at the end of the day, one cannot settle for 6.25% because the world out there is very expensive.
“We cannot settle for what the employer offers,” she said.
Jamieson claimed that some of the workers earned less than R1,200 a week and said the offer made by the employer – which would be the equivalent of R60 a week – was an insult to workers.
BBF Port Elizabeth factory manager Lance da Silva said so far the protest had been relatively peaceful and no incidents of intimidation or violence had been reported.
“We usually [run] a 24-hour shift. However, because of the strike currently taking place, we are limited to running a 12hour shift at the plant,” he said.
Da Silva said some of the striking workers had since decided to return to work and signed an indemnity form.
Estee Fouche, human resource official at the BBF Safety Group in Port Elizabeth, said the strike was as the result of a deadlock declared after employer organisations and unions failed to reach an agreement over the demands made.
“The principle of no-workno-pay still applies in the current strike,” Fouche said.
An estimated10,000 footwear workers have been on strike nationally since Monday...