The plastics industry is troubled by the reluctance of the press to publicize the brutal and savage attacks on employers and employees by employees affiliated to the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (NUMSA) during the strike action in this industry. The right to strike, we acknowledge, is enshrined in S. 23(2)(c), of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (the Constitution), but more importantly so is the right to freedom and security of the person protected in S. 12(1) of the Constitution. The latter clearly and unambiguously protects the right of any person “to be free from all forms of violence from either public or private sources”. This begs the question “when will the right to be free from all forms of violence, brutal and savage attacks – even at the hands of the so-called striking employees - be recognised and condemned by our government, media and public?” Johan Pieterse CEO of the Plastics Convertors Association of SA said.
From 15 October 2018 the strike by NUMSA in the plastics industry has been characterised by extreme violence and brutal attacks on honest hard-working employees at all levels of employment. Even if the plastics industry is a lone voice, we condemn the brutality by NUMSA members and the escalation of violence against some of our members’ employees. These brutal and savage attacks on employers and employees in the plastics industry are an infringement of a core right as envisaged in the Constitution, but which seems to be secondary and insignificant.
In attempts to protect our members and their employees from the brutality displayed by NUMSA members and enforce the rule of law, the PCASA approached the Labour Court to interdict, among others, any more acts of violence, damage to property as well as preventing ingress or egress. Although this application was successful, NUMSA and its members disregarded the order which led to PCASA again approaching the Labour Court, on an urgent basis, with a contempt of court application against NUMSA, its leaders and striking members. PCASA were granted the interim relief sought. However, as became evident, NUMSA simply persisted with their violent and brutal behaviour and has never condemned the violence or criminal acts now common practice and continuing on a daily basis, in the strike.
We find it anomalous that the rule of law and the rights of all citizens in South Africa is protected by our Courts and our Constitution, but ignored by the perpetrators and condoned with a deafening silence in the press. The strike is no longer, and has never been, about improving conditions of employment but a direct attack on the Bill of Rights and to consequently destabilise the economy. If this strike was to improve conditions of employment the strike would have been resolved 3 weeks ago when employers met and improved on the demands by NUMSA.
The plastics industry appreciates the assistance of the SAPS during this strike but find it unconscionable that notwithstanding dockets being registered against numerous individual perpetrators for violence, damage, criminal acts and savage attacks, the very same people are and remain part of the picket line, arrogantly positioned next to SAPS’s officers. Although SAPS have access to all evidence and full particulars of the perpetrators, no-one has been prosecuted or arrested.
Apart from the destruction caused by the NUMSA striking members, the plastics industry is horrified by the savage attacks on honest hard-working employees. According to Johan Pieterse, CEO of PCASA, the employee in the photos attached who was savagely attacked by NUMSA members is fighting for his life. He further states: “In South Africa it is becoming the norm for strikers to intimidate other employees who want to earn an honest day’s living to support their families. It is time that South Africa as a nation takes a stand on violent behaviour during so-called legal strikes.”
The plastics industry will not allow the ongoing violence and pretend that it is ‘just another strike’. Violence during “peaceful and lawful” strikes are seen as the norm. ‘It is not’, said Pieterse, ‘and the plastics industry, who are a proud contributor towards the GDP and employment in South Africa, will not remain silent, condone or tolerate this’ Pieterse added.
NUMSA and its leadership must rest assured that we will leave no stone unturned to ensure we expose the perpetrators, prosecute all involved in destruction, savage attacks and unlawful conduct – even behind the scenes – and do whatever it takes to return our Country to be a manufacturing giant. Manufacturing in South Africa is held hostage by a very small minority of unruly individuals, and the real risk to life, property, low productivity, despite huge training efforts, and therefore too low returns on investment (in that sequence) for investors, who have better international options, are the reasons we will experience massive reduction in employment. Unless the citizens of South Africa stand-up and protect our manufacturing industry and restore it to be the best in the world, attracting any form of investment would be impossible to achieve. Background of the strike The strike in the plastics industry officially commenced on 15 October 2018. Two days later the PCASA attempted to have the strike declared unlawful and interdicted as a whole. That application failed.
As a result of NUMSA’s intensified efforts to ‘bleed the industry’ in its ‘war on plastics employers’ it seems as if NUMSA and its executive officers, Irvin Jim and Visumzi Mahbo show no deference to the Labour Court’s restraining order on violence. This left the PCASA with no alternative but to approach the Labour Court with an urgent Contempt of Court application against NUMSA. The application was heard on 2 November 2018 on an ex parte basis and found that NUMSA, its members, Irvin Jim and Vusumzi Mahbo have something to answer for when the matter returns to Court on 1 February 2019. In the event that NUMSA is unable to show cause why the interim order should not be made a final order, NUMSA faces a fine of R 1 000 000.00 and Irvin Jim and Vusumzi Mahbo face fines of R 100 000.00 respectively and/or imprisonment. It is time that the destructive and inherent violent and unlawful nature of industrial action in South Africa is exposed.