29 July 2014

South Africa: Metal Workers Strike Over

Photo: Nardus Engelbrecht/Sapa
Members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa march for better wages in Cape Town (file photo).

Johannesburg — The strike in the metals and engineering sector ended on Monday, after both the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and Solidarity accepted a wage offer.

"We are pleased to inform the public and the country at large that the latest offer is a product of sweat and bitter struggles by our toiling workers for a living wage," Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said.

"The settlement offer has been overwhelmingly and unanimously accepted by our members. This is a massive victory given the pittance offer at the point of deadlock. For this we salute metalworkers."

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.

Jim said that a national minimum wage should be introduced in the country to avoid strikes and to ensure workers get paid a living wage.

He called on workers to report for work from Tuesday and asked employers to give workers until Thursday to return to work.

Trade union Solidarity also accepted the offer, spokesman Marius Croucamp said in a statement.

"The offer comprises salary increases of eight percent to 10 percent in year one, 7.5 percent to 10 percent in year two and seven percent to 10 percent in year three," Croucamp said.

In terms of the proposal, section 37 of the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council collective agreement would remain in place, with a provision that existing company-level agreements stay in force.

According to the employers' associations: "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."

Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of SA (Seifsa) CEO Kaizer Nyatsumba said that a compromise had been reached over section 37, and that Seifsa was satisfied this would protect companies from two-tier bargaining.

"It is now incumbent on all stakeholders in the metals and engineering sector to work co-operatively together to grow the sector and to ensure that it is internationally competitive," he said in a statement.

Jim said the union had succeeded in negotiating a formulation of the section 37 provision which was "legally sound" and would not disadvantage Numsa.

Meanwhile, the National Employers Association of SA (Neasa) said it would continue with a lock-out of striking workers on Tuesday.

"In view of the fact that unions refused to address Neasa's demands in these negotiations, Neasa employer members may continue to lock out workers who engaged in the strike," it said in a statement.

"This arrangement will continue until Neasa's demands are met."Neasa demanded that negotiations were reduced to a reduced entry level wage, an improved exemptions policy to allow for improved flexibility and an eight percent across the board increase.

Neasa said it would release a full statement on Tuesday morning.

Jim said Nearsa should ensure that they implemented the agreement and said if they failed to do so they would violate the agreement by employers.

"There will be no justification for employers to hold back what is due and what these workers deserve," he said.

The Democratic Alliance welcomed the end to the strike and applauded the union and employers for reaching a settlement.

With the strike now over, we must also take a moment to reflect on the state of our nation's labour relations," DA MP Ian Ollis said in a statement.

"The DA remains committed to striking a balance between workers' constitutionally guaranteed right to engage in lawful strike action and preserving the rule of law for the safety of all South Africans."

The agreement would be signed at the Lakes Hotel, in Benoni on Tuesday at 2pm.

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.

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

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InFocus

South African Metalworkers' Strike Over

Members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa march for better wages in Cape Town (file photo).

A month-long strike by metalworkers has come to an end after labour unions secured a three-year agreement with employers. Read more »