“There is something about the working class,” said Numsa general secretary, Irvin Jim, “when it is faced with a crisis, it has the ability to be innovative and come up with solutions. This is what the working class did 70 years ago when it found itself in a similar crisis.”
Jim was addressing more than 180 delegates from Numsa's Gauteng regions (Hlanganani, Sedibeng, Wits Central West and Ekurhuleni) at their regional job security conference held from April 23 to 27.
He described how the idea of social security and social welfare was developed during the Depression years of the 1930s in the US and Europe as a result of pressure from organised workers.
“Our task is to defend jobs while at the same time acting to transform the capitalist system and build socialism. We cannot separate the two tasks. If we do, we will not be different from other reformist unions.”
Jim went on to describe how Numsa should be shifting “the auto industry from a sector that provides luxury cars to a tiny sector of society, to one that builds a safe and efficient public transport system.”
Such a plan would fit in with government’s long-term public transport strategy. He also urged delegates to analyse how Numsa sectors can “take advantage of government's capital and infrastructure programme.”
No more Father Christmas
Numsa president Cedric Gina told delegates, “We are tired of Governor Mboweni acting like Father Christmas – dishing a half basis point this month while promising another next time if the country behaves according to his patronising standards. To save jobs demands significant reduction of the repo rate by the Reserve Bank”.
Delegates also heard inputs from Gauteng’s Premier Paul Mashatile, different government departments and industry associations.
Key decisions of the Gauteng conference are:
* to call on the new ANC government administration to make the consolidation of state procurement policies one of the priorities in its first 100-days programme; job-saving must become a major consideration when decisions about where supplies are to be sourced are taken.
* to picket the next meeting of Eskom’s board of directors since the Union believes that decisions of the board’s tender committee are to blame for the loss of jobs in electrical engineering and cable-manufacturing sectors.
* to urgently meet Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Sedibeng and Tshwane mayors in order to have workers who are on short-time and lay-off qualify as indigents in the four municipalities
* to call on the new government administration to reduce the vacancy rate in the public service within 100-days after it comes into office
* to march to the SA Reserve Bank on May 27 to demand a further drastic reduction in interest rates
* to call for an immediate increase of import duties and tariffs in cases where the bound rate (what South Africa offered to the World Trade Organisation) is higher than the applied rate (what the actual tariff is) and where there is ample evidence that the lower applied rate threatens jobs and economic development
* for the new ANC government to produce a Bill that will make sure that labour brokers are outlawed
* to agitate for worker and state takeovers of companies that are on the verge of liquidation if goods that they produce have a market and there are prospects to diversify from what they presently produce.
Meanwhile, Numsa's Eastern Cape region is heavily involved in a similar initiative. With the automotive sector (Numsa's auto and tyre sectors) being one of the key sectors in the province, Numsa is keen to see jobs saved.
Working with the provincial government a number of consultative meetings have been held with industry leaders, municipalities, other trade unions and affected parties as well as the department of economic development (DEDEA).
Dedea was mandated by the Provincial EXCO to lead and drive the Provincial response. A high level Rapid Response Coordinating Committee (RRCC) was established to manage a raft of counter-crisis interventions. This is chaired by the MEC, DEDEA and is made up of senior representatives of Government, business and labour.
The RRCC meets bi-weekly to urgently develop project interventions and to consider ways in which the impact of the global economic crisis and the consequent jobs crisis can be mitigated in the Province.
Speaking at the launch of the RRCC, outgoing MEC, Masualle of DEDEA, stressed that provincial government believes that retrenchments should not be used first to deal with this crisis.
“Government would do whatever we could to facilitate measures to avoid retrenchments and closures,” he said, and was committed to providing leadership to ensure that the province weathers this storm. Masualle urged all development partners to maintain maximum communication and a healthy flow of information on the situation.
Across on the west coast, Numsa's Western Cape region is also participating in a provincial government initiative to save jobs.
"Government, organised business, organised labour and civil society sits in the Provincial Development Council (PDC)," says Numsa Western Cape regional secretary, Fred Petersen.
He says that the PDC has activated a Rapid Response Unit (RRU) to urgently address those companies in distress. The RRU sits weekly and thus far has received 19 applications for assistance; many of these whose order books have already run dry.
Petersen says that their REC which sat on April 4-5 resolved that amendments to section 189 of the LRA should be tabled as soon as possible. “Numsa should not wait to take them to the Cosatu National Congress later this year!” he said.
As Numsa News went to print, KZN was holding its own regional conference while plans were afoot to organize a jobs conference in Mpumalanga.
The key challenge after all these conferences will be to implement decisions agreed on! See how YOU can implement these decisions at workplace level and take part in marches where they happen!
Close to 200 Numsa members picketed outside the SA Reserve Bank on April 29 demanding a drastic drop in the repo rate. Numsa president, Cedric Gina, handed a memorandum to a representative of the SARB.