Mittal SA is rapped over the knuckles, but what’s the right way forward

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has expressed its utmost disquiet and disappointment over the Competition Tribunal’s inability to provide leadership on how to deal effectively with monopoly pricing exercised by giant steelmaker Mittal SA.

Competition Tribunal’s embarrassing decision has opened another can of worms and the door to threats of civil claims by local steel makers’ clients which could amount to billions of rands. And, this will certainly provoke turmoil and uncertainty in the markets as Mittal has indicated it will appeal against the ruling it considered unfair and unjust.

The bitter legal battle between Mittal SA, and the largest gold mining company Harmony, Durban Roodepoort Deep and Macsteel has been going on for the past four years.

Numsa expected the ruling to ensure among others that Mittal SA charged what is regarded as fair steel prices to local steel markets and be capacitated, at the same time to provide enough steel before export markets were considered. It is not clear whether the tribunal would seek to impose precedent-setting price regulation, which is consistently opposed by local and foreign markets.

“For the giant metalworkers union it would have meant that the local downstream industry would not be pressurized to import steel. Smaller and medium companies were also not to be affected negatively by continued uncertainties and be forced to cut more jobs,” Lucas Mthiyane national steel and engineering negotiator said.

It is also feared that threatened job retrechments affecting more than 94 000 workers in the downstream industry would be effected soon if the matter is not resolved speedily.

A constructive decision expected was the one that could take into consideration the interests of the labour as well in the industry as a whole, including the majority of the union members in Mittal SA itself.

The tribunal reportedly indicated that it could impose wide- ranging remedies for Mittal’s contravention of section 8(a) of the Competition Act. But it will postpone considering the remedies sought until it has heard further evidence.

For more information contact:-

Mziwakhe Hlangani, Numsa national information officer

Cell phone: 082 9407116

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