Workers demand an end to unfair wage differentials at Xstrata
The month long strike by members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) at Xstrata smelters in Rustenburg ended on November 25 with an agreement that a joint task team would investigate wage disparities and address these with immediate effect once the investigation is complete.
SOUTH AFRICA: The strike commenced on October 24, 2011 after negotiations which began in September 2011 deadlocked. Workers demands include a ten per cent wage increase across the board with the intention to close the existing wage disparities between Rustenburg plants and Lion Tubatse plant, a housing allowance of 3,500 rand and a reduction of the number of grades from eight to five.
The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) was unable to settle the case, leaving the union with no option but to exercise its right to strike. Irvin Jim, NUMSA General Secretary argues, "We strongly believe that these demands by workers can be achieved by Xstrata, given the fact that Xstrata has bloated millions in rewarding its executives. "
NUMSA says that the strike has been prolonged because Xstrata management has applied delaying tactics, straining industrial relations and deepen antagonism between management and the union. On November 15th, 2011, NUMSA members applied further pressure on the company, marching to Xstrata offices in Johannesburg and handing over a memorandum of demands from workers.
NUMSA has negotiated favourably on the wage and housing allowance demands and made other gains such as securing a fulltime health and safety representative. However the matter of wage disparities still needed to be resolved, in particular workers in Xstrata Lion plant, Mpumalanga, are getting higher wages than their counterparts in Rustenburg.
Xstrata explanations to NUMSA of the wage disparities are that the Lion plant in Mpumalanga is more productive than the Rustenburg plants and Lion is located in a remote area, requiring higher wages to be paid in some grades to attract skilled workers. Addressing workers gathered at the march in Johannesburg, NUMSA President, Cedric Gina said, "It is not our problem that workers in Mpumalanga are paid more because the Rustenburg plants are using advanced technology to produce ferrochrome. We want workers to be paid equally for the same quality work they do.”
In order to resolve the impasse, both parties agreed to an immediate investigation into the matter by a joint management and union team with the intention of ultimately establishing wage harmonisation in all plants. Workers today have accepted this as the way forward and the strike has been called off.Nov 25, 2011 – Aisha Bahadur