Still time to avert strike in metal in­dus­try – Saefa

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - Sizwe Dlamini

THE SOUTH African En­gi­neers’ and Founders’ As­so­ci­a­tion (Saefa) be­lieves that the planned strikes by trade unions within the engi­neer­ing sec­tor were not the only op­tion avail­able to work­ers.

The as­so­ci­a­tion said al­though the unions had ap­plied for a cer­tifi­cate to em­bark on a strike, this did not nec­es­sar­ily mean the strike was in­evitable.

Saefa ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Gor­don An­gus said yes­ter­day: “The re­al­ity is that strike ac­tion will be ex­tremely detri­men­tal to em­ploy­ees and the sec­tor as a whole, not to men­tion the ad­di­tional pres­sure that it will bring to bear on the al­ready ten­u­ous eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try.”

Ne­go­ti­a­tions

The Na­tional Union of Me­tal­work­ers of South Africa (Numsa) and em­ploy­ers in the engi­neer­ing sec­tor are en­gaged in ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Numsa is de­mand­ing a 15 per­cent wage in­crease across the board based on the ac­tual rate that a worker earns, not the min­i­mum rate.

Em­ploy­ers want to in­crease wages in terms of the min­i­mum rate in­stead of what a work­ers ac­tu­ally earns. Em­ploy­ers also want to im­ple­ment a min­i­mum rate of R20 an hour for new en­trants to the sec­tor, whereas the cur­rent min­i­mum is R40.

Numsa has de­manded “a two-year agree­ment” and “the ex­ten­sion of the agree­ment to non-par­ties, in­clud­ing em­ployer as­so­ci­a­tions such as the Na­tional Em­ploy­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion of South Africa and the Plas­tics Con­vert­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of South Africa that fall un­der the Metal and Engi­neer­ing In­dus­tries Bar­gain­ing Coun­cil”.

Saefa have ap­pointed Jonathan Gold­berg, a vet­eran of in­dus­try-level ne­go­ti­a­tions over wages and con­di­tions of em­ploy­ment, as an in­de­pen­dent lead ne­go­tia­tor to rep­re­sent em­ploy­ers in the wage ne­go­ti­a­tions.

An­gus pointed to Gold­berg’s ap­point­ment, at Saefa’s ex­pense, as a clear in­di­ca­tion that the as­so­ci­a­tion and the more than 400 busi­nesses it rep­re­sents have a sin­cere de­sire to reach a so­lu­tion that will pre­vent a strike, while set­ting a solid and re­al­is­tic foun­da­tion on which the sec­tor could build go­ing for­ward.

Em­ploy­ers want to im­ple­ment a min­i­mum rate of R20 an hour for new en­trants to the sec­tor.

How­ever, he pointed out that reach­ing such a so­lu­tion re­quired the same com­mit­ment by labour’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives to act in the best in­ter­ests of all par­ties, par­tic­u­larly the fi­nan­cial well-be­ing of the em­ploy­ees they rep­re­sented.

“Of­fers pre­sented by em­ploy­ers have been sum­mar­ily dis­missed by unions, in­di­cat­ing the ab­sence of a sin­cere de­sire to reach a sus­tain­able so­lu­tion that ben­e­fits all par­ties,” An­gus said, “but rather a pre­dis­po­si­tion by the union to­wards strike ac­tion.”

He pointed in par­tic­u­lar to Numsa’s out­right re­jec­tion of a pro­posal for a re­duced en­trylevel wage for new em­ploy­ees in the sec­tor as in­di­cat­ing that the union was un­will­ing to find a so­lu­tion that pro­moted the long-term sus­tain­abil­ity of the sec­tor.

“Saefa and the other em­ployer rep­re­sen­ta­tive as­so­ci­a­tions have re­peat­edly as­sured em­ploy­ees that the pro­posed lower hourly wage – ini­tially pro­posed at R20 per hour, the same level as the na­tional min­i­mum wage – is only for new, un­skilled em­ploy­ees in the sec­tor,” he said. “And that this will never be passed on to ex­ist­ing em­ployed, trained and ex­pe­ri­enced work­ers.”

Worse con­di­tions

In a state­ment on its web­site, Numsa said that agree­ing to this pro­posal would make con­di­tions of em­ploy­ment worse. “Numsa re­jects this of­fer with the con­tempt it de­serves. We warned the ANC that the na­tional min­i­mum wage they had pro­posed would have dis­as­trous con­se­quences, but they ar­ro­gantly ig­nored us.”

An­gus said the unions ap­peared un­will­ing to trust that the lower en­try-level wage would not be passed on to ex­ist­ing em­ploy­ees, nor that it was in­tended to make it fi­nan­cially vi­able for the in­dus­try to pro­vide fur­ther work op­por­tu­ni­ties and train­ing to more South Africans.

“I am con­fi­dent that, if the par­ties are will­ing to come to the ta­ble with an open mind, and have a will­ing­ness to con­sider all view­points and con­cerns, a so­lu­tion can be found that avoids the po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing conse quences of in­dus­trial ac­tion,” An­gus said. “But agree­ing on that so­lu­tion will re­quire a sin­cere com­mit­ment by the em­ploy­ers and the union to set aside any other agen­das they may have and ne­go­ti­ate with the best in­ter­ests – both cur­rent and fu­ture – of the en­tire in­dus­try in mind.”

Numsa is de­mand­ing a 15 per­cent wage in­crease across the board based on the ac­tual rate that a worker earns, not the min­i­mum wage.

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