The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has welcomed a finding by the Essential Services Committee (ESC) of the CCMA, which declares the fuel sector a non-essential service.

The petroleum industry had approached the ESC, seeking to be declared an essential service. However workers’ unions were concerned that such a finding would have not allowed them to strike, should they ever feel the need to. The application was made by the South African Petroleum Industry Association (SAPIA) and the Fuel Retailers Association (FRA).

Numsa then made submissions to the ESC, opposing the application, on the basis that the right to strike is a fundamental right which is protected by the constitution.

“Also we were not convinced that the fuel sector met the criteria to be declared ‘essential’. The condition for a sector to be declared ‘essential’ is, ‘a service the interruption of which endangers the life, personal safety or health of the whole or any part of the population,’” Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said in a statement.

Numsa vs fuel sector

According to Numsa, both the FRA and SAIPA failed to provide proof to support their claim that an interruption caused by a strike to the production, transportation and distribution of fuel would make it impossible for essential services sectors.

“The panel in making this determination, have to balance between the need to provide essential services and interfering with a constitutional right and applying a wide interpretation would in our view negatively affect collective bargaining in circumstances where the same cannot be justified. The panel is not satisfied that a case is made for the designation as even in its evidence SAPIA conceded that a strike that lasted almost three weeks did not impact essential services as there were contingency plans put in place to ensure that essential services were not interrupted,” the ESC is quoted as having said.

Numsa said as a union, they would not fold their arms when “right-wing” employers attempt to water down their rights.

“We are pleased that the ESC came to the correct ruling and agreed with us on this issue. Ultimately, this is a victory for our members and the working class of this country. We urge workers in this sector to join NUMSA in numbers because we truly are defenders of the working class”

Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola

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Presh JM Reporter

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