AT THIS moment, trying to make sense of whatever momentum may have been gained over the course of the year, it’s opportune to express thanks to the leaders of our industry, who in my view have done an outstanding job in spite of extremely difficult conditions.
The recent strike (and we hope it’s over by the time you receive this) by the National Union of Metalworkers has posed serious challenges for the industry and specifically its leadership. The NUMSA demand that the Plastic Negotiating Forum be disbanded was never going to be accepted by the Plastics Convertors Association, the industry’s employer representative body, but when this became apparent it set off a series of nasty intimidation events in which several plants and individuals were attacked. About the only good thing that can be said is that no one was killed, but it was close.
As always in a conflict, there are two sides to the story (and then there’s the truth), but about the only guaranteed outcome of such a strike is that people will lose jobs. Some union members did stay out, after the strike was declared illegal, but were subsequently denied access on returning to the plants where they worked, in some cases resulting even in weeping. It was stressful for the employers to insist that these individuals remain out and take up the matter with their union bosses. But even in some of these cases employers have since relented.
With such an apparent gulf between the employers and unions, an agreeable solution does not seem achievable soon, but once the dust settles, one way forward may be to hold an imbizo at which the industry and union leaders can meet to try to reduce areas of conflict. In Africa, indabas such as this are one of the only mechanisms to resolve issues. It’s true that an ideological gulf divides the groups, but unless we start breaking down the barriers, things are not going to get better. The key should be to continue with the skills and personal growth of all people in the industry and to develop a stronger industry that is better suited to manage the demands and challenges we face.
Issue of the year: The environment
2018 will most probably be remembered for the considerably increased pressure from environmental groups, specifically regarding one-way packaging and marine pollution. It’s understandable that people, even the manufacturers, may not see these issues as their responsibility, but we are going to need to come up with solutions to avoid loss of market share.
The Summit Publishing team wishes all our readers a peaceful and rejuvenating festive season.
Martin Wells Publisher