THE Labour Court on Friday ordered the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and its members to stop inciting and conducting acts of violence, intimidation and lawlessness against nonstriking workers at Transnet’s Ngqura Container Terminal near Port Elizabeth, and their families.
In making the order, Labour Court Judge Edwin Tlhotlhalimaje also ordered Numsa to desist from causing damage to property, vehicles or buildings of Transnet and its employees, and inform its striking members that their conduct is unlawful.
This came after what Transnet called a “shocking night of violence”, in which homes belonging to “our colleagues” were petrol-bombed, while two vehicles, also belonging to nonstriking workers, were torched in 10 coordinated violent attacks on Friday morning.
The state ports and transport utility also said two more houses belonging to nonstrikers were stoned in the early hours of Saturday morning, despite the interdict, following a six-week strike at the terminal.
“This, we view as flagrant contempt of the court’s decision,” Transnet said in a subsequent statement.
Regional corporate affairs manager of Eastern Cape Terminals for Transnet Port Terminals Wandisa Vazi said on Monday that about 20 Numsa picketers were at the gate to the port, situated in the Coega industrial development zone.
The container terminal is a major container transshipment hub for global shipping companies. It also services the Nelson Mandela Bay metro area’s critical automotive industry and citrus exports.
“Today we are working as normal,” she said. “The strikers are outside the terminal.”
Transnet said Numsa represented “a minority” of its more than 60,000 workers nationally, and that the union was “far from meeting the minimum thresholds for recognition at Transnet”.
Numsa members make up about 110 of 600 workers at the terminal, with the rest belonging to the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union and Utatu Sarwhu, a union merged from previous labour groupings.
Last week, Transnet said it had absorbed more than 300 workers into its terminals at ports in East London, Port Elizabeth and Ngqura. It also said there were “no more labour brokers at Transnet’s core operations” in the Eastern Cape, and that all employees were now employed directly by the company, either on a full-time or a fixed-term basis.
But Ms Vazi confirmed that the Numsa members at the Ngqura container terminal were still employed by labour brokers.
Numsa Eastern Cape regional secretary, Phumzile Nodongwe, said on Monday that Numsa had requested to respond to the order by the Labour Court. He said the union wanted “substantial evidence” that its members were involved in violent acts over the Ngqura terminal.
“We are not intimidating — our people are picketing in the designated area as provided by (an earlier) Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (ruling)” he said.
Transnet and CEO Brian Molefe are peddling lies. They are trying to destroy the image of Numsa.”