7 July 2014

South Africa: Numsa Strike Continues

Photo: Numsa
Numsa members marching in Limpopo (file photo).

Johannesburg — Talks to end the wage deadlock in the metal and engineering industry failed to produce a solution, the National Employers' Association of SA (Naesa) said on Monday.

CEO Gerhard Papenfus said the employer body met the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) on Friday in bilateral negotiations in an attempt to find a resolution.

At the meeting, Neasa confirmed to Numsa its current position that any wage offer was subject to an agreement on the establishment of a reduced entry-level wage in respect of new entrees and the adoption of measures to make the industry more flexible, he said.

"It is, however, disappointing that Numsa does not even want to discuss these issues. Without an agreement on these Neasa proposals, we simply cannot see our way open to offer any wage increases," he said.

Numsa members in the metal and engineering sector went on strike on July 1 demanding a 15 percent wage increase and a R1000 housing allowance in a one-year bargaining agreement. It further wants an end to the use of labour brokers.

On Thursday, the employers' organisation -- the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of SA (Seifsa) -- tabled a three-year wage offer of between eight and 10 percent for different levels of workers in the first year.

The first category of worker was offered seven percent in 2015 and 2016, while the others were offered nine percent in the second year, and eight percent in the final year.

The Naesa has offered eight percent, subject to an agreement for entry-level workers' wages to be lowered and measures to make the industry more flexible.

Papenfus said Numsa had recently pointed out that the metal industry had lost 250,000 jobs during the past five years.

"The metal industry and South Africa face extremely difficult challenges. On the one hand there are workers who struggle to make ends meet and on the other hand SMMEs simply cannot meet workers' wage expectations."

He said Neasa was the largest employers' organisation in South Africa with 23,000 employer members and also the largest employers' organisation on the Metal and Engineering Industry Bargaining Council, representing about 3000 primarily small and medium-size businesses.

He said if Numsa continued muscling employers into deals which they could not afford, the decline and eventual destruction of the industry would be expedited.

"Unless we find ways to break the chains on this industry, as Neasa is proposing, the future of manufacturing in South Africa is bleak. We will not be party to any agreement responsible for the further destruction of the industry," he said.

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