Iron and steel mills company ArcelorMittal South Africa has accused the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) of failing to address numerous acts of violence and intimidation against its non-striking workers.
The company refused to accept a memorandum from demonstrators who’d marched to its offices in Vanderbijlpark on Tuesday, 24 May 2022.
“ArcelorMittal South Africa did not permit a march to deliver a memorandum at the company’s offices,” said Group Manager, Stakeholder Engagement & Communication Tami Didiza.
“This is because the strike action initiated by Numsa has been marred by numerous acts of violence and intimidation of non-striking employees, despite the strike and picketing rules agreed between the company and the union,” Didiza said.
The company said it addressed these concerns with the union, but, to date, there have been no real or tangible efforts to stop these acts.
“These unlawful acts include the shooting of an employee, who is currently recovering in hospital, multiple cases of assault or attempted assault of non-striking employees,” said Didiza.
Didiza said the company had received complaints from non-striking staff which included them and family members being targeted in the workplace, en route to work and at their homes.
There have also been allegations of stoning and attempted damage to employees’ and contractors’ vehicles, road blockades and other disruptions intended to prevent access to the company premises.
“Cases have been opened with the Saps for investigation of these incidents and arrests have already been made in some cases,” confirmed Didiza.
“Given that Numsa has thus far not made any reasonable effort to address the unlawful and disruptive conduct of its members and has not demonstrated that it is willing or able to do so, we do not have any confidence that the union will be inclined to or capable of ensuring that the process to hand over a memorandum at our offices will be carried out peacefully,” said ArcelorMittal South Africa’s Chief Executive Officer Kobus Verster,
“To ensure the safety of our employees and the security of our business premises, we, therefore, did not permit the handover.”
The company did offer to receive the memorandum in writing by email or fax.
The Labour Court granted ArcelorMittal an urgent interdict prohibiting acts of violence and intimidation.
Among other things, this interdict:
- Prohibits the respondents from committing, enticing or encouraging all forms of acts of misconduct in support of their strike action;
- Requires the respondents to comply with the picketing rules;
- Requires the respondents to provide the court, within 48 hours and in writing, a plan of action to ensure compliance with picketing rules and to ensure that non-striking employees will not be attacked or intimidated;
- Orders the respondents to issue a written statement to its members condemning the violence and intimidation.
“The company respects the rights of employees to embark on industrial action, but this must be in compliance with the law and having regard for the rights of others,” said Verster.
“It is extremely disappointing that employees who have been participating in the strike do not have any regard for the law.”
ArcelorMittal South Africa has since tabled two alternative final offers, subject to certain conditions, for union consideration on Friday, 20 May 2022, these include:
- A 6% increase on all remuneration elements, including allowances, standby and medical aid, plus a R5,000 once off ex-gratia payment, or
- A 6.5% increase on all remuneration elements, including allowances, standby and medical aid, without any cash payment.
But both Numsa and Solidarity have indicated they would not move from their previous demands of a 7% increase with a R5,000 once-off cash payment.
“We believe the offers we have tabled in an effort to put an end to the wage dispute are fair and more than competitive when compared to recent agreements in similar sectors,” said Verster.
“The current strike action is unfortunate and not in the best interest of any stakeholders or the business,” he concluded.