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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

COSATU Media Monitor COSATU Media Monitor COSATU Media Monitor


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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements


17 July 1998

COSATU has closely followed developments concerning the on-going wage dispute involving approximately 20 000-footwear workers in the country.

We are extremely concerned that footwear workers appear to have been misled by a bi-lateral agreement struck between the Saflia (South African Footwear and Leather Industries Association) and Nulaw (National Union of Leather and Allied Workers) leadership.

Nulaw leadership has allegedly informed their members that the agreement is worth a 9% package when in fact it is not. They have failed to allow workers to discuss and properly understand the implications of the agreement, and forced workers to call of their 5-day protected strike.

This bi-lateral agreement has now caused confusion and major division among footwear workers. Hundreds of Nulaw members nationally have shown their rejection of the agreement by engaging in sporadic industrial action and joining SACTWU, the COSATU affiliate for this sector.

Saflia and Nulaw leadership appears to have deliberately excluded SACTWU from the bi-lateral discussions, despite the fact that SACTWU, though not the majority union, is substantially representative in the footwear sector. In contrast, SACTWU has acted responsibly by suspending its strike to allow workers to fully discuss the implications of Saflia's latest wage offer.

The Federation re-iterates its policy position that any wage or other collective bargaining agreement has to carry properly mandated support of workers in order for it to have maximum legitimacy. Of major concern to the Federation is the fact that approximately more than 7000 footwear workers now do not have a wage agreement legitimately protecting.

The Federation is particularly concerned, that the Saflia-Nulaw leadership's bi-lateral agreement have by-passed the centralised bargaining structure (the National Bargaining Council of the Leather Industry of South Africa). This appears to be unconstitutional in that it does not comply with the provisions of the bargaining council constitution, and is inconsistent with previous legitimate wage-related decisions involving all parties, taken at bargaining council level. It appears that this fact will cause even further disruptions in the sector in future.

We are encouraged by the fact that Saflia has agreed to SACTWU's request for a properly constituted bargaining council meeting on 22 July 1998. We will be closely following the outcome of this meeting, and hope that an amicable solution to the confusion concerning the wage negotiations in this sector, which unites footwear workers, could be found. We hope that it will not become necessary for COSATU to call on its affiliates to engage in solidarity support action for footwear workers, should the dispute not be resolved.

Nowetu Mpati COSATU Head of Communications

Tel: + 27 + 11 + 339-4911 Fax: + 27 + 11 + 339-2281 E-mail: nowetu@cosatu.org.za