Metal Industry Lock-Out: Neasa Press Release
The National Employers’ Association of South Africa (NEASA) is adamant that the decision by its members to engage in a lock-out of workers that participated in the recent Metal Industry strike will stand despite threats from both NUMSA and COSATU. Yesterday COSATU in the Western Cape threatened to close down companies who are participating in the lock-out. The threat by COSATU Western Cape came on the same day that NUMSA threatened NEASA with court action if NEASA does not suspend the current lock-out against NUMSA and four other unions. NEASA maintains that the lock-out is legal and that right to a lock-out enjoys the same constitutional protection as the right to strike.
‘Companies in the Metal Industry have just endured a violent four week strike, where employees were prevented, through extreme forms of violence and intimidation, to execute their right to work. There were instances where employees were dragged out of offices and assaulted; where business owners were threatened with their lives, businesses were forced to close their doors, properties were damaged and interdicts obtained to curb the violence and destruction were treated with contempt. Employers were forced to look on while these events unfolded, at times without police protection,’ says NEASA Chief Executive, Gerhard Papenfus.
Now that NUMSA is faced with similar action, but without their members being threatened with their lives, threats of assault or without their property being destroyed, NUMSA wants to mobilise against these businesses. They threaten to close down businesses who execute their constitutional right.
‘NUMSA and COSATU Western Cape clearly stand for a one-sided form of democracy. They are very quick to claim the benefits of their version of democracy and are very quick to point out any so-called undemocratic behaviour, but they are clearly not interested to illustrate democratic principles when the shoe is on the other foot. When the situation does not suit them, they utilise the tyranny of numbers. In all of this they, however, show their true colours,’ says Papenfus.
What they are illustrating is the kind of South Africa they stand for; it is a South Africa where the views of those who do not agree with them will be suppressed.
‘Democracy can only be legislated to a degree; but the real test comes when things happen which you cannot control. It then shows whether you really believe in freedom of expression and constitutional liberty, whether it comes from the heart or whether it is only something you’ll use when it is convenient to you,’ Papenfus said.
The current differences between NEASA and NUMSA will not be resolved through threats and legal action, but through the appropriate channels – something NEASA was denied during the most crucial portion of the recent round of wage negotiations.
Bargaining councils favour big business who can afford to pay higher wages. Smaller businesses in the metal industry are being squeezed to the extent that jobs are being lost and companies are closing their doors.
Violence and intimidation must not be rewarded. Employers need to stand together and demand that Government change the current legislation. Where there is documented evidence of violence, intimidation and destruction of property the strike should be declared unprotected. The union should also be held accountable for any damage that occurs as a result of their members running amok as has happened during the Metal Industry strike.