On April 23, the labor court of South Africa is set to provide the reasons for its interim order prohibiting the strike action by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), scheduled for April 18 and 19. The order was issued at the behest of the airline, Comair. The court will also deliver its final judgement on whether or not it concurs with the airline’s allegation that the planned industrial action, headed by the union, was illegal.
The union had called for strike action to protest the company’s violation of the principle of “equal pay for equal work”. The company has been paying 21 of the workers represented by NUMSA higher wages than their colleagues who do the same work.
In December 2018, the Comair management refused to acknowledge even the existence of these wage discrepancies among workers. After NUMSA threatened to go on strike, an agreement was signed to averted industrial action.
One of the terms of this agreement stated that the management would jointly investigate the wage discrepancies with NUMSA. Following this, in January, it was found that 21 workers were paid higher than their colleagues for doing the same work. The wages of the highest paid among them was R 7,000 (USD 495) higher than the lowest paid workers. According to a statement by NUMSA, its members have complained that these “unjustified wage gaps” between workers doing the same work were “race based”.
Without alluding to color, and stating that “we cannot allow a situation where the principle of equal pay for work of equal value is blatantly violated in the workplace”, NUMSA proposed that the management resolve the issue by raising the salaries of the remaining 730 members in the bargaining unit, “in a phased manner over a course of three years”, in order to achieve “equal pay for equal value” by 2022.
As per this proposal, the wage differences amounting to less than R 1,000 (USD 70) were to be resolved immediately by giving a wage hike to those earning lesser. A time period of one year was proposed to bridge wage gaps ranging between R 1,000-2,000 (USD 70-141), and a three year period to resolve differences of more than R 5,000 (USD 353).
The management, however, rejected this offer and instead proposed to deny the higher wage earners all wage hikes until the remaining have caught up to their wage levels. Calling this proposal outrageous, NUMSA said, “Why should one group of workers be punished and denied wage increases, when it was management failure which led to the creation of this problem in the first place? This proposal is unfair and this is why we reject it.”
When further negotiations, mediated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, failed to break the deadlock, NUMSA presented a 48-hour strike notice on April 16. The strike was set to deal a blow to the profits Comair was hoping to reap over the weekend ahead of Easter.
In order to stop the strike, Comair went to the labor court on the morning of April 18. Claiming that the strike was illegal, the company sought an order prohibiting the strike.
The court, while withholding the final judgement on whether or not the strike was illegal, gave an interim order prohibiting the strike until the final verdict is delivered. Complying with the order, NUMSA members returned to work.
“However, the interdict does not resolve the dispute created by the management of Comair. Our members remain aggrieved by the fact that the airline has created a situation where some workers are earning unjustifiably higher salaries,” NUMSA said in a statement, vowing to continue the fight to achieve equal pay for equal work.
Our members are demanding that Comair must bridge the gap!They must reduce the unjustified wage gap!#ComairStrike#ForTheLoveOfTheWorkingClass
Gepostet von NUMSA am Donnerstag, 18. April 2019