Trade union representatives and shop stewards from IndustriALL Global Union affiliates in Germany and South Africa working for Lear Corporation, a New York Stock Exchange listed company, from IG Metall and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) respectively, are meeting in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, to discuss ways to collaborate on improving working conditions for workers in Africa and Europe.
Their discussions are focusing on wages, especially demanding equal pay for work of equal value, improving adherence to health and safety standards, employment equity, provision of transport and other benefits. The meeting, which received support from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, runs from 20-22 June, and seeks to strengthen the 30-year collaboration between IG Metall and NUMSA that can be traced back to the struggle against apartheid.
Employing over 165,000 workers globally, Lear Corporation manufactures automotive seats and electrical distribution systems. Over 44,000 of the workers are in Europe and 16,600 in Africa. However, most of the African workers are in Morocco where the company employs 13,000, mostly in the electrical systems. In South Africa the company employs 3,600 workers of whom 1,552 are NUMSA members.
The meeting is a follow up to a discussion held last year to form a network that would not only share information and knowledge but also learn from the other’s experiences. The network would involve workers along the Lear value chain in which workers from Africa and Europe can deal with common issues that they face especially the practice of lowering of conditions of service for workers in countries considered to be low cost by the company. There was also an agreement to facilitate the representation of South Africa on the European Works Council as the continents were under the same management.
Jochen Schroth, IG Metall departmental leader for shop steward policy and the union representative for Lear Corporation in Europe says:
“Transnational union activities make us stronger through joint agreements for future collaboration and learning from each other. This allows us to develop concrete steps towards building a strong network.”
Says Kenny Mogane, IndustriALL regional officer for Sub Saharan Africa:
“We welcome the Lear network in the motor sector as it will build solidarity between workers in Africa and Europe as well as improve working conditions. The collaboration between IG Metall and NUMSA is necessary as it intensifies our fight against the global capitalist system.”
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