A wall allegedly damaged during a strike in the plastics industry. The broken down wall was one of the instances of violence referred to by PCASA in their application to have a contempt of court order granted against metalworkers union Numsa. Photo Credit: SUPPLIED
A wall allegedly damaged during a strike in the plastics industry. The broken down wall was one of the instances of violence referred to by PCASA in their application to have a contempt of court order granted against metalworkers union Numsa. Photo Credit: SUPPLIED

Metalworkers union Numsa faces a R1m fine,and general secretary Irvin Jim might have to pay R100,000 personally, if an interim Labour Court order that found them in contempt is made final.

The court ruled on the Plastics Converters Association of SA’s (PCASA) urgent application on Friday, following a previous interdict against the use of violence and intimidation by Numsa members during its lawful strike. 

Union members are accused of using petrol bombs, damaging property and assaulting an employee. 

PCASA CEO Johan Pieterse said the union is also expected to face a damages claim. The association is still quantifying the destruction caused to property during the strike, which he says is already in excess of R70m.

The strike officially started on October 15, and two days later the PCASA attempted to have the strike declared unlawful and interdicted as a whole. That application failed. 

It then asked the court on October 19 to interdict Numsa, its members and supporters from taking part in or instigating ‘‘unlawful behaviour’’ involving any property or infringing the rights of any staff member or visitor to their premises.

The court granted an interim interdict and said Numsa had to approach the court in December to argue why it should not be made final. 

The association approached the court on Friday to ask that Numsa, Jim and Vusumzi Mabho, the union’s national co-ordinator for the plastic industry, be found in contempt of court.

In the interim, the court ruled in the PCASA’s favour and imposed a fine of R1m on Numsa and R100,000 separately on Jim and Mabho. If Numsa, Jim and Mabho cannot show cause as to why the order should not stand, they will have to pay up.  

In the PCASA’s founding affidavit, Pieterse said its  offices were “inundated’’ by reports of its members suffering “extreme violence, damage and other forms of unlawful conduct at the hands of protesters participating in the national Numsa strike”. 

Pieterse also details instances of intimidation of nonstrikers, arson, assault and the use of petrol bombs. In the court papers he specifically refers to an MD who had to have his finger amputated after he was assaulted.

Numsa went on strike in demand of higher wages, which the PCASA said it had agreed to. Pieterse, however, said more demands are now on the table from Numsa but the parties have stopped negotiating with each other for the time being.

Jim said the PCASA is “quite clearly trying to use the courts, yet again, to boost its position in the power play”. He said the association tried something similar when it attempted to interdict the strike, which it lost.

“We will oppose the contempt application. As Numsa we have never promoted unlawful activity and our officials have consistently called for lawful activity,” Jim said.

He said the plastics industry would be better served by the PCASA engaging in genuine negotiations rather than with “delaying tactics and their attempts to use the courts”. 

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