JOHANNESBURG – The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa said on Wednesday it was forging ahead with a month-long strike at the local subsidiary of multinational steel manufacturer ArcelorMittal.
Numsa said this after its members handed over a memorandum of demands to the UK Embassy in Pretoria on Tuesday to highlight the alleged abuse and exploitation of workers at ArcelorMittal South Africa.
At least 2,000 permanent employees and contract workers have been on strike since 12 March. Numsa says a large number of its members are at a disadvantage because they were employed through contractors Real Tree Trading and Monyetla Services but actually work for ArcelorMittal.
It wants all contract workers to become fully in-sourced by ArcelorMittal and earn the same salary and benefits as other permanent workers.
“We are told that the contractors are service providers and not labour brokers,” Numsa’s Hlanganani regional secretary Jerry Morulane said.
“ArcelorMittal puts profits before people by forcing contract workers to be exposed to a dangerous working environment.”
ArcelorMittal is the world’s biggest steel manufacturer with over 300,000 workers internationally and 60 offices globally.
Numsa said ArcelorMittal South Africa should immediately reinstate the union’s shop steward who it said was dismissed in 2016 for objecting when management failed to adhere to health and safety rules.
“We are demanding that the UK ambassador engage with the management of ArcelorMittal on these demands over the next seven days,” Morulane said.
“In the meantime, our members are determined to continue the strike. They refuse to be bullied by the management of ArcelorMittal. This is a just strike to abolish outsourcing and to ensure that all workers are remunerated fairly.”
Last year, Numsa won a landmark judgement in the Constitutional Court which stipulates that workers brought in through labour brokers must be permanently employed after three months of working full time for the main employer.
Both ArcelorMittal and the British High Commission office were not immediately available for comment, but in a statement late last month, ArcelorMittal proposed a process to in-source some workers with critical skills currently employed at service providers over a three year period, as part of its business optimisation programme.
It said it had agreed to a second investigation of the matter of the shopsteward despite the issue already having been fully investigated and a finding made in favour of the company at the Metals and Engineering Industry Bargaining Council of South Africa.
ArcelorMittal also denied that employees were at risk at the company, saying safety remained its number one priority and was essential to its sustainability.
– African News Agency (ANA)