Yesterday, the wage talks between National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa [NUMSA] and the Steel Engineering Industry Federation of South Africa [SEIFSA] finally deadlocked.
The union has declared a dispute in terms of the Labour Relations Act section (64) and industry collective bargaining agreement after the employers failed to meet eleven critical demands. The wage talks cover 310 000 workers in the steel and engineering sector of the economy. The employer federation has failed to meet all the union demands and give a wage offer.
We have declared war with SEIFSA. NUMSA does not appreciate the conduct of the employers. Severe disparities in income pose a fundamental constraint to the attainment of sustainable wages in the industry. The attitude of employers in failing to meet the wage demands aggravates the inherited social deficit. It is therefore spurious for SEIFSA to argue that workers cannot be paid better when wage inequalities exacerbate poverty.
We are witnessing an increase in pauperisation of workers as a result of lower wages. Most of the steel and engineering workers are highly indebted and they cannot accept poverty wages. In the past few years wages have not soared but labour productivity has increased. Profits rose substantially last year. Workers in the industry have not received a bigger slice of the cake. The increase in profits has not been shared equally. The current wage offer must be improved further to match and correspond with the demands of the union.
We are on a collision course with SEIFSA because they rejected all the workers important demands. The dispute will end the filibustering and parochial tendencies of the employer body. We are continuing with the mobilisation process of all workers across the country. This is a start of a long battle in the current dysfunctional labour relations and in all possibilities the massive national strike is inevitable. It will take SEIFSA enormous amounts of time to realise that the all other demands are important.
The rigidity of wages in the industry certainly does not promote growth and stimulate local demand. NUMSA has argued strongly for a high wage increase that will cushion the effects of inflation, unemployment and poverty. Employers have betrayed the workers by failing to meet crucial demands. We firmly believe that the stance taken by SEIFSA to expressly reject the union demands is confrontational, mischievous and insensitive to the collective bargaining arrangements as allowed by law in South Africa . We think that this kind of behaviour is undesirable and unhealthy for labour relations.
The industry is vulnerable to serious risks of job losses, outsourcing and workplace restructuring, of which some of these factors result into serious wage constraints for workers. Therefore not meeting the union demands is an attempt to further undermine and limit the growth prospects of the industry.
1. Wages and Duration of the agreement:
That the wages increases shall be 12% for the lowest paid and 11% for the highest paid.
The wage parameters shall be set at 6 to 10% for the second year.
Demand a two year wage agreements in the engineering and motor.
2. Employment Security
Notice pay shall be four weeks.
The severance pay shall be 4 weeks for every completed year of service per worker. Furthermore, the benefits pertaining to this severance pay shall be extended to limited duration contract (LDC) workers. With respect to LDCs, staggered termination should be treated as unbroken service for the purposes of severance pay.
Bargaining representatives are tasked with exploring the issue of the viability of Work Security Funds in more detail.
3. Labor Brokers
To close some of the existing gaps in the Main Agreement in particular pertaining to the issue of labor brokers, Section 20 shall be amended as follows:
Section 20 (c) (ad) – in the event of a dispute over the use of labor brokers, each party reserves the right to embark on industrial action.
We further insist that the use of labor brokers in direct production processes must be unequivocally outlawed.
Most importantly we declare that in the long-term, NUMSA’s position that the practice of labor brokering be completely outlawed should be deliberated upon at NEDLAC.
4. Training Demands
Training Conference Resolutions must be endorsed.
The work group consisting of NUMSA, MERSETA and Bargaining Council should be revived.
Grades should be linked to NQF levels
6. Leave pay
Gradually increase leaves pay to 20 days after completing one year service.
Employers must adhere and remain committed to the HIV/AIDS Code of Good Practice.
8. Shift Allowance
Increase in afternoon allowance to 10%
10. Integration of house agreement
All house agreement companies must be integrated into the main agreement as a separate schedule.
[For further information please contact Dumisa Ntuli @ 011 689 1700 or 0829737282]