Despite state repression and intransigent employers, the Swazi Transport and Allied Workers Union is fighting and winning for its members.
Over the past few months, the union has signed a new collective agreements with a road freight company, won reinstatement for workers and secured a lucrative pay deal with an airline.
STAWU signed a collective bargaining agreement with Nagins Transport, a road freight company operating between Swaziland and South Africa.
The agreement includes a 7% pay rise, the establishment of a pension scheme for all employees and new commitments to health and safety.
National Coordinator and lead negotiator Sticks Nkambule said, “A CBA that is alive to societal effects of the working class beyond their working life is a cause to which we celebrate and stand for’’.
The union has also mitigated retrenchments at Swaziland’s oldest trading road freight company, Cargo Carriers, which largely operates in sugar cane haulage. The company had planned to retrench 28 drivers from the Big Bend branch and increase hours to 54 per week. Union negotiation has lead to only eight retrenchments and the retention of a 48 hour week.
STAWU won a court case ordering the reinstatement of 12 workers at Grow it Green, a company specialising in the collection and transportation of refuse for Ubombo Sugar in Big Bend. The Company signed a recognition agreement with STAWU in late 2014 following legal action instituted by the union after its refusal to grant due recognition to workers’ right to association and assemble for collective bargaining purposes.
STAWU National Coordinator Sticks Nkambule said ‘’Following institution of the Court application the Company director wrote to my office, calling for more dialogue. We shall grant her wish. For as long as it is in good faith and with meaningful intentions. We shall however remain vigilant to defend our members’ rights and interests thereof’’
The union also organises civil aviation workers, and recently secured a lucrative pay deal at Swaziland Airlink.
The union secured a 10% pay rise, with back pay effective from September 2014.
However there remain outstanding issues related to workers’ terms and conditions following relocation of airport operations from Matsapha Sikhuphe airports.
STAWU General Secretary Simanga Shongwe remarked, “The recorded pay deal is appreciated. Settling for a pay deal of this magnitude without engaging in an industrial action must be commended. For it denotes high levels of maturity from all Parties involved’’
The union’s victories are all the more impressive given that Swaziland is a repressive absolute monarchy, and dissent – including union organising – is repressed. The government has refused to recognise TUCOSWA, the union federation that STAWU is affiliated to, making it effectively an illegal organisation.
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