24 July 2014

South Africa: Numsa Wary of Wage Offer Amendment

Johannesburg — Trade union Numsa on Thursday expressed fears that an amendment by employers to the new wage offer will result in retrenchments or restructuring in the next three years.

"The employers are causing trouble and making hasty demands," National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) deputy general secretary Karl Cloete told reporters in Johannesburg.

"They want to freeze history... Employers are hell-bent on not finding a speedy resolution."

Numsa said the amendment to section 37 would collapse centralised bargaining, giving employers "unfettered powers".

"They can subject our workers to short-term positions, restructure, and retrench to maximise profits," he said.

"They must drop this demand or justify as to why they want this section amended."

Both the National Employers Association of SA (Neasa) and employer body, the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of SA (Seifsa), have called for section 37 of the main agreement of the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council to be tightened.

"Section 37 protects employers from having to engage in substantive negotiations at plant level, once a deal has been concluded on wages and related conditions of employment at national level," Neasa and Seifsa said this week.

Numsa members were expected to make a decision on the new wage offer by late Thursday or Friday.

Numsa held a special national executive committee meeting on Tuesday, following the tabling of a wage offer by the labour department aimed at ending the strike in the metals sector.

Seifsa said on Tuesday it accepted the offer, but with conditions. One of these was that unions accept it by Friday.

The new proposal includes a three-year agreement with increases of between eight and 10 percent, depending on whether the workers were high or low earners.

The labour department and Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration facilitated talks between Seifsa and unions after negotiations between the parties deadlocked.

Over 200,000 Numsa members in the metal and engineering sector downed tools on July 1, demanding a salary increase of 12 percent, down from their pre-strike demand of 15 percent. They also demanded a R1000 housing allowance, and a total ban on labour brokers.

The union announced on July 13 that it had lowered its wage demand to 10 percent.

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