Numsa to challenge court order barring violence in plastics strike

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) vowed on Thursday to challenge a recent decision by the Labour Court to grant a temporary contempt of court order to prevent employees striking in the plastics sector from being violent.

More than 10 000 workers have been on strike since October 15, according to Numsa, but this figure is disputed by the Plastic Convertors Association of SA (PCASA).

The PCASA) approached the court to obtain the temporary order claiming that Numsa members were violent during the strike.

National Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola told Fin24 on Thursday that the union would argue on the return date in February 2019 against the temporary order being made final.

"Our members have been accused of being violent during the course of the strike action and as a result the court granted PCASA a temporary order following a previous interdict against the use of violence and intimidation," Numsa said in a statement.

"If the court makes the order final, then Numsa will be fined R1m. The Numsa sector coordinator, Vusi Mabho, and the general secretary, Irvin Jim, will be fined R100 000 each."

Numsa maintains that its strike has been peaceful.

'Infiltration'

"It is not unusual for strikes to be infiltrated by criminal elements, and agent provocateurs. The court has not yet made a determination on whether those who were involved in these activities were in fact NUMSA members. We will be back in court on 1 February 2019 to oppose this order and to defend our members," the union said.

"There are two unions involved in the strike, NUMSA and Metal and Electrical Workers Union of SA (MEWUSA), and non-union members are also part of the strike, therefore, to simply presume that Numsa is responsible, is wrong."

Numsa further claims that employers in the plastics industry "stubbornly refuse to engage us"; that employers are "very violent" against its members; and that they want to "drastically reduce wages and benefits".

'Dirty tricks'

According to Numsa, employers used "dirty tricks", by using the lockout to keep workers from accessing the workplace and "forcing them to sign inferior individual agreements".    "We urge employers to return to negotiations, in order to save the industry and the economy," said Numsa.

Hlubi-Majola told Fin24 that the union had urged its members to remain peaceful and abide by the law.

The Labour Court will determine in February whether Numsa members were involved in violent incidents, she said. That is why Numsa will challenge the temporary order, she added.

'Savage attacks'

PCASA told Fin24 that employers had suspended talks "due to the violence and savage attacks" on employers and employees in the plastics industry. According to the PCASA, negotiations will resume on 20 November under the auspices of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA)."We agree it is in the best interest of all to return to the negotiation table and that will happen on 20 November. This is not due to employer unavailability, but due to the fact that Numsa officials could not avail themselves," PCASA said.

PCASA claims there is footage of violent incidents where perpetrators are visible in red t-shirts bearing the Numsa logo. Numsa has not provided proof of allegations regarding hours, leave and bonuses, PCASA added, saying the Plastic Industry Main Collective Agreement was "more favourable" than previously.

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