The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) is gearing up for a national mega strike in the plastic sector from Monday next week. The union says the strike will paralyse all sectors across the economy especially those in the automobile, telecommunications and mobile industry.

The union, which is calling it the plastic-shutdown, says employers in the industry have continued to undermine its workers. Speaking to the media earlier on Thursday, union representatives said their members’ working conditions and wages remain dismal while working hours have been increased.

The union wants the R20 an hour wage increased to R40. They also want bonuses for its members reinstated.

At least 10 000 Numsa members are expected to down tools next week in the plastic industry. The strike is expected to affect 450 companies in the plastic manufacturing, plastic moulding and plastic packaging industries.

The automobile and mobile industry will be the hardest hit.  “The employer group we are dealing with in the plastics sector is constituted by the notorious group of employers who varied down workers’ wages and benefits. Plastic employers have set a terrible precedent by unilaterally varying down the benefits, conditions and wages of our members in the industry. Grade H minimum wage has been reduced from R40 to R20. Leave enhancement pay has been taken away. Introduction of area categories outlying areas will be paid 10% less than urban areas,” says Numsa Secretary General Irvin Jim.

Numsa is calling for a 15 % increase for its members across the board backdated from 2014 to 2017. “We further demand that the settlement reached in the MEIBC (Metal & Engineering Industries Bargaining Council) from 2017 to 2019 must be applicable to the plastics sector.”

The union is also demanding that its members receive the same benefits as workers in the engineering sector. “Plastic workers’ wages and other terms and conditions of employment must be regulated by the council main agreement, the MEIBC. Employment must be the same as those  in the rest of the industry covered by the MEIBC council main agreement.”

According to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) the plastic industry employs close to 60 000 people. This represents all sectors of the South African Plastics Industry including polymer producers and importers, converters, machine suppliers, fabricators and recyclers. The strike will have a knock on effect on sectors that depend on plastic for manufacturing of their products.  The union says it is open for negotiations before it commences with its strike action next week.