Steel employers offered a pathetic 4,4% wage increase for 310 000 workers.

DATE: 07 June 2004

Johannesburg Press release – for immediate release


Last week, the first round of wage talks between the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the Steel Engineering Industry Federation Of South Africa (SEIFSA) hit a snag after employers offered a miserable 4,4% wage increase. The second round of wage bargaining round will continue on the 08/06/2004. The wage negotiations are part of the collective bargaining arrangements that determine wages and working conditions of 310 000 workers employed in the engineering and steel industry.

NUMSA is disappointed that the employer federation failed to increase wages substantially taking into cognizance that employment is precarious in the steel and engineering industry. Workers in the industry have been affected by short-term contract work, outsourcing, sub-contracting and introduction of labour brokers into the workplace. This has negatively impacted and deprived workers of their job security, real wage and benefits. The 4,4% wage increase will worsen the situation. We firmly believe that SEIFSA has been guided by shortsighted sectional approach in responding to the wage increases. They have failed to practically and logically respond to low wages in the industry. They have not taken account grim economic conditions that are facing workers.

It is our view that the employer federation has an obligation to promote orderly collective bargaining in the industry. In this case , serious consideration should be given to sustainable wage increases in the midst of workers impoverishment and deteriorating social and living standards. SEIFSA should respond in a manner that gives credibility to the industry. The current narrow and unitarist response by SEIFSA is unjustifiable and unqualified.

Most of the union social wage demands are motivated by socio-economic factors such as high level of poverty, increasing food inflation, interest rates, rising retrenchments and unemployment. The employer federation must not overlook such factors. The current 4,4% wage offer is potentially destructive for the industry and will force the workers to adopt a hard approach in realisation of their legitimate wage demands. The employer federation should not apply their power tactics to persuade the union to accept lower wage increases. NUMSA wants wage increases that will broaden the base of the workers who can participate meaningfully in the economy.

(For further information please contact Dumisa Ntuli -@ (011) 689 1700 or 0829737282)