Industry: Transformation and Growth

A document for the engineering industry

A “transformation and growth” document for the engineering industry is set to spark debates between parties over the burning issues in the sector. Numsa Bulletin spoke to Thulani Mthiyane to find out more background on the process.

Is this document an initiative of all parties?Yes.

Why did it arise?Most of the things arise from wage negotiations while others were proposed by parties because they think they are important. We had agreed to deal with issues that were outstanding from the main agreement negotiations. For example the issue of global competitiveness was not part of wage negotiations. The issue of exemptions was raised by employers and the department of labour. They are both not comfortable with our exemption procedure because it does not accommodate non-parties.

Jobs and growth was also not part of the negotiations. Skills and training was part because Numsa submitted six demands. Black economic empowerment and transformation – Numsa submitted a demand after which industry suggested we discuss our own charter.

Grades – Numsa wants an appropriate grading structure. There is a lot of confusion around this.

Last year or the year before, there were a lot of noises about the engineering sector and its diversity because of some very big and many very small companies and that this necessitated a change to the bargaining set-up. Are these issues likely to come up again in this process?The transformation and growth strategy proposal asks parties: “Do you want to continue where you negotiate for one type fits all, or is there a possibility of saying this sector must be protected from others?” This question will come up again in this process.

What about a mega bargaining council scenario where you bring in auto, tyre, engineering and motor with separate bargaining chambers for each of these sectors as the Merseta does?With the Merseta, motor equals motor, auto equals auto etc. However, engineering employers are already arguing that we should breakdown the sector into smaller sub-sectors eg metal containers, etc and negotiate separately for each small sub-sector within engineering.

Why is Numsa so against that?Numsa’s concerns revolve around those sub-sectors where we are not well organised. If they were to be allowed to negotiate on their own, there would be problems pushing employers to grant reasonable salary increases.

The other issue is that in these sub-sectors where trade unions and employers are not well represented, the department of labour might not be keen to extend this agreement to all those employers.

So there’s a danger of going back to the Mawu (one of the fore-runners of Numsa) time where we had individual plant bargaining?Yes.

Where are you now with the process?Gavin Hartford, the facilitator, is busy having bilateral discussions with each party, so when he starts to facilitate the process he has some understanding of where the different parties are coming from. The overall objective is to try and deal with the new issues identified.

Are the time frames negotiable?We need to make sure that we comply with the main agreement in terms of issues recorded there. We must make sure that if we have said that training issues need to be finalised by June 2007, that we either have agreement or disagreement. In terms of other issues, obviously if you want to include government around

Five phases identified:Phase 1 – Set objectives – define scope of project, goals, key areas, design projectPhase 2 – Status quo analysis – analyse the current conditions, what can drive the process forward and what will be obstaclesPhase 3 – Set out possible strategies showing trade-offs made in each strategyPhase 4 – Decide on which strategy to follow weighing up trade-offs, and assess which one will achieve strategic goals Phase 5 – Work out implementation plans, establish new industry partnership structure and joint action teams

Challenges identified in the documentHIV/AidsGlobal competitivenessFlatten gradesMEIBC reform – sectors and SMMEsBEE Transformation CharterSkills and trainingExemptionsJobs and growthThulani Mthiyane is Numsa’s engineering sector coordinator