Comrades, our union is under serious attack from within. Over the past 7 years, if not longer, there has been a growing tendency to suppress the voice of workers. This has gone hand in hand with practices that attack the rights and living standards of workers. The Numsa policy was specially amended at an NEC to block Cde Vuyo Kwinana, a full-time shopsteward, from becoming an office bearer of the shopstewards Committee at VWSA and limit his challenging of undemocratic practices in Numsa.
In 1996, the newly shopstewards VW-SA elected soon they became co-opted by management. These new shopstewards agreed on a scheme of partial withdrawal from, what they told workers, was from the provident fund. Workers thought they had repaid the amount through a 3% increase in their provident fund contributions. However, when some workers went on early retirement in 1998, they received very little money from their provident fund as it was then discovered that it was not a partial withdrawal, but a loan from a private institution, Standard bank, that was charging workers 17% annual interest for this. This loan, amounting to R50 million was facilitated by Old Mutual through Standard Bank by the written agreement of the Numsa local officials, VWSA management and these shopstewards. The workers were rightly furious at this and other such practices, and tried to remove these shopstewards by submitting petitions as per the union Constitution. The Numsa local shopstewards council of Uitenhage, together with the officials refused to remove them and workers had to swallow the bitterness of enduring them until March 1999, when the next election was due in the cycle of 3 years.
From the incoming 6 full-time shopstewards, only one came from the 1996 period. Before this election, management and Union officials also tried to convince workers not to elect new shopstewards but to keep their current ones. The new shopstewards started challenging the unmandated provident fund agreements as well as many other sellout agreements [such as collapsing of all loan schemes at the company such as housing, education, school uniform, etc into one revolving loan system limited to R2500]. The Numsa officials were so desperate to defend their friends that they expelled the shopstewards for making unreasonable demands on the company! This led to the workers stopping work in July 1999 to await the explanation of the officials for their undemocratic actions. This dispute took 3 days to resolve.
On the 17th January 2000, there was an unscheduled quarterly meeting [ the scheduled one had already been held in December 1999]. The MD was absent and the workers resolved not to attend. [the MD normally attends]. The Numsa President, Mtutuzeli Tom was there with officials of the union and addressed only 35-50 workers for about 3 hours. From there they obtained a mandate to suspend the 13 shopstewards. The rest of the workers had gone to the machines to start work, but management refused to re-start these. At first workers did not realise it but later it was clear that the VWSA management worked hand in hand with Numsa officials to suspend the 13 shopstewards. The union official did not even inform them of the suspension, the VWSA management and the Sheriff of the Court came to give them notices of suspension. This is unheard of in our union movement that has a proud tradition of workers democracy!
The morning on the 20 January the workers gathered outside the gates and waited for the officials to come to the plant to explain their actions. Even though the officials had a signed Labour Court agreement that they will come and address workers problems, they never came. This was the start of the strike. On the 21 January management issued notices that until the dispute was resolved between the officials and the workers, they intended to lockout workers by the Monday 24 January 2000, which they did. This was an illegal lockout in terms of the Labour Relations Act and the officials did nothing oppose it. It is clear that VWSA management colluded with the Numsa officials on the otherwise they would never have embarked on this illegal action. How many years of struggle has it cost and how much workers blood has flowed in battles against the lockout, but now the Numsa leadership join hands with the bosses to set the scene for the dismissal of Numsa members!
From then up to now, the Numsa officials have never come to address the general membership at VW. Instead from the start, national, regional and local officials and office bearers have run to the media, condemning the strike and siding with management on disciplining the workers. The Numsa officials never had any mandate to sign any agreement with management, yet they jointly put this in the newspapers. This was the first time the workers saw this agreement. Since when does establishment newspapers act as a mandating forum within Numsa? Management knew there was a dispute yet they persisted by meeting and signing agreements with precisely those officials that the workers had a problem with! On the other hand they consistently ignored meeting the representatives that the workers had confidence in. On the 23 January 2000, 9 workplaces, mostly from Numsa in the area formed the Uitenhage Crisis Committee. This Committee made a call from the morning of the 24 January for urgent mediation to resolve this dispute. No-one came up to now. When an ultimatum of the 3/2/2000 was made over the media, the management threatened to discipline 350 workers. This created a problem as workers knew that by going back many, if not all, of their leaders would be dismissed. The VW-SA management and the unmandated Numsa officials formed an unholy alliance in the dismissal of 1300 workers and further suspension of 150.
At all times the Numsa officials have refused that a mandated workers delegation be part of the negotiations. They have no respect for workers control! Workers pay their wages but the officials exclude them from deciding over their own future. Management took sides by signing agreements and negotiating with officials who were the very ones behind the undemocratic attack against the workers. It was the local Numsa officials, who were behind trying to set up a clique within the plant instead of accepting the democratically elected leadership. It was from within the SA Communist Party [SACP] that the rumours and slanders came about United Democratic Movement [UDM] involvement in the issue. The UDM in fact condemned the strike and have never and never will be involved in this matter of workers - it is against the policies they stand for. To show just how little the Numsa officials care about workers democracy and how hellbent they are on installing pro-boss leaders at the plant, they conducted shopstewards elections [where only a handful of workers were present] while the issue of the mass dismissals has not been resolved. These new shopstewards that literally represent only their jackets have already been recognised by the VWSA management. The election of new shopstewards show that Numsa officials have no intention of fighting for the reinstatement of any worker. Workers inside have responded by resigning in such large numbers that Numsa is no longer recognised at VW-SA.
Faced with exclusion by the officials over determining our own destiny, the workers were faced with a tough choice. The 30 day deadline for submitting the case in the legal process was looming. It is a tragedy that in order for the workers to control who their representative in this battle is, was for them to resign from Numsa. The very local officials and part of the leadership should have been the ones to resign. Ultimately, however, workers will decide which is their way forward.
Instead of fighting the deteriorating conditions since 3 February, the Numsa officials have formed a partnership with the bosses and agreed to the following new conditions:
Overtime is made compulsory and there is no notice given.
Illegal overtime is being worked, 12 hour shifts - 5 up to 7 days a week
Starting time is changed to be when you have to be at your place on the line. If you are 5 minutes late at the line you are given a written warning
workers are shifted to any place of work, changing even on a daily basis.
production is currently at about 10% of normal production and management are producing false production figures.
workers have to go after hours for wage queries
To go from one area to another there is now a dompass system
Attacks at Goodyear
When the Crisis Committee chairperson faced false charges at Goodyear, the Numsa officials did nothing to protect Cde Ndandani. In fact their character assasination of him actually encouraged management to dismiss him, which they did. The Numsa officials have also suppressed a new shopsteward layer from being elected and prefer to recognise the unmandated sweetheart old shopstewards. Workers at Goodyear have already marched to the Numsa office to demand shopsteward elections. They are demanding the kicking out of the local and regional officials and office bearers.
Attacks at National Standards
When the Crisis Committee Secretary, Cde Myali Davids, was called in by management for disciplining for his support of the VW-SA workers allegedly during company time, the Numsa officials gave the company the go-ahead to dismiss him. As a shopsteward, the Numsa officials were supposed to represent him but they refused. In fact they instructed all other shopstewards, that whoever represents Cde Myali would immediately be expelled from the union.
Worker delegates elected from the general meeting of VWSA workers must be a full part of the negotiations over our future! Management must negotiate with our chosen representatives.
Defend the principle of the right of instant recall of worker representatives!
Defend the right that shopstewards can only be removed by the worker constituency that elected them!
To all Numsa members, we call on you to pressurise management for the full reinstatement of all dismissed VWSA, Goodyear and National Standards workers, through petitions and other solidarity action
To all Numsa members, we call on you to act to remove the undemocratic, pro-boss officials and office bearers from local to regional to national level. Replace them with militants that respect workers control and working class independence!
to all members of the working class, form Workers Crisis committees in your areas to defend us, through raising funds and engaging in other acts of solidarity.
For further information: ph 0826265298/ fax41 9228691
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