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Union tells Glencore to stop stooping low on the right to strike in South Africa


Anglo-Swiss multinational commodity trading and mining company Glencore has built global notoriety for trashing workers’ rights; one tactic is to hire lawyers instead of engaging with workers. This is what Glencore tried to do to break a month-long strike at its Tweefontein and Goedgevonden coal operations in Mpumalanga when it went to the Labour Court for an interdict to stop the collective job action. However, on 29 June, the court dismissed Glencore’s application to stop the strike saying it is not urgent.

Workers belonging to IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), have been on strike since 4 June, demanding the right to paid leave during the Christmas break in December.

The union argues that as December is a normal working month why shouldn’t workers be entitled to paid leave. Attempts by Glencore to talk to the workers failed as the company did not meet the workers’ demands, which included the payment of bonuses.

Says NUMSA general secretary Irvin Jim:

Glencore is a brutal employer with a laundry list of infringements against workers. Every worker has the right to protest and to withdraw their labour to secure better wages and improved working conditions. We reject Glencore’s attempts to undermine the right to strike and will continue to put pressure on them to stop denying workers the right to go home during the Christmas holidays.

Further, Jim also condemns Glencore’s “notorious” violation of workers’ rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and globally.

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Ozkan agrees with NUMSA:

We condemn the use of legal action as an instrument to intimidate workers. As a multinational Glencore, must engage in dialogue with the workers and agree to their demands for paid leave in December. The company must also respect the workers’ right to strike and not to resort to bullying tactics. Any attempts to belittle workers’ rights and conditions of service for Glencore to make profits will be resisted.

In April NUMSA marched to the head office of Glencore in Johannesburg where it submitted a petition to the company to respect workers’ rights and to stop union bashing. The union is also demanding that Glencore adopts centralized bargaining.

The company continues to reject centralized bargaining which benefits workers in that it standardizes wages across a company’s operations and allows for collective bargaining agreements to be signed that cover all workers.


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