The workers of the Toyota factory in South Africa's Kwa-Zulu Natal province started an ‘unprotected’ strike on January 22. At a meeting in December, the management had praised the employees at this factory for their work and promised that the workers would receive a quality bonus. In January it became clear that the management "had changed its mind" and the workers who were asking for their bonus were instead forced to do overtime work by the management. “When it was clear that our members had reached a deadlock on the issue of quality bonus, NUMSA’s regional leadership tried to intervene”, representative of the national workers union NUMSA said. The management refused to allow NUMSA to intervene, they said it would be an "internal matter".
Because the union did not do anything after that answer, the workers downed tools and started the strike, without having official "allowance" for the strike. After the "labor law" if the workers lead a wildcat strike, they can be dismissed if they did not return to work. When the strike action continued the management fired 2,895 workers on January 24. Under this pressure of the great strike of the workers the company negotiated with the union NUMSA and now all of the workers were reinstated and the Toyota company agreed to pay the bonus.
In an official statement of the NUMSA union they said: “We want to make it clear that we do not support the fact that our members went on an unprotected strike because they risk being dismissed, which is exactly what happened in this case. The law is not on the side of the working class when it comes to strike action and it is really important that members understand this. This government has done everything possible to erode the right to strike."
That shows that the real heros of this labour struggle were the workers, without their wildcat strike they would not have achieved this victory. The union did not support that unprotected strike, but after they were forced to negociate. The workers need a union which supports their interests, which leads their interests. The workers here learned that they have a great strength in their struggle. That is an important lesson that all of the fired workers were reinstated! The workers need to trust in their own strength.