Delivering on the workers’ mandate

It was in 2010 when the motor sector last signed an agreement. The negotiations were quite intense and they were from September 1 to September 16 of that year.

The negotiations were assisted by a mediator and a CCMA facilitator. The national office-bearers intervened, as did the Retail Motor Industry organisation, according to Roger Piedt, Numsa’s Western Cape regional motor organiser.

The following demands were put on the table:
• a 20% wage across-the-board increase, based on actual rates of pay;

• a 40-hour week without loss of pay;

• four weeks’ retrenchment pay, and

• four weeks’ bonus and leave pay.

There were delays in the employers’ implementation of these demands, as well as delays on the part of the Numsa committees that were put in place to deal with the outstanding demands and make sure that they are implemented.

Piedt said that the 2013 negotiations will be a mixture of all outstanding demands from 2010, plus additional ones. In terms of wages, the 2010 negotiations achieved a great deal, and there were other small gains.

However, the ‘“peace clause” is bad, as it prevents us from pursuing other issues in the three-year period of the agreement. (Although the clause says in sector 6 we can engage with the employer.) It also hampers us in the sense that it says the employer “may” agree to bargain with the union.

Piedt continued: “We might be sitting with a Marikana-type situation, where the employers angered the workers by delaying the 2010 demands. And it is not only the employers who will be in trouble; it will be Numsa, too. Members will want to know what happened to the mandate they gave in 2010.

One of the major demands tabled this year concerns original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Said Piedt: “We are going to table more demands which include grouping components manufacturers, new tyre manufactures, truck trailer and vehicle body manufacturers in one cluster for a mega-bargaining council called the new motor manufacturing council. An income threshold will form part of our 2013 demands.”

It seems the coming negotiations will be heated. Yassen Abrahams, who works for Control Instrument Company in Retreat in the Western Cape, he had this to say:

“Most of our members were disappointed with the outcome of the 2010 bargaining, but that is because our 20% demand was not met. But more importantly, we did not really understand the 20% in monetary terms. For instance; some got a R1.36 increase and we were out on strike for three weeks”.

He added: “We had some gains – for example, the retrenchment cap was removed. But a whole a lot of important things were not analysed properly. Issues such as the “removal of the wage threshold”: no one knows what that means and as a result the agreement excluded a lot of members. Our strike was not well supported by workers in car dealers and chapter three companies, and this made things more difficult.

“We will not be talking percentages this year but rands and cents. We need to particularly concentrate on our forecourt and their low income. If we have our way we will look at the mega-bargaining structure. Also all bargaining representatives will be trained in February so that everyone is clued up on the agreement. So possibly in 2013 we will gain more at the negotiation table for our members.”

Negotiations are always full of challenges. Hopefully members will get what they are bargaining for this time.

Yondela Gijane is deputy local secretary in Bellville local, Western Cape.
Centralised bargaining under attack

Some employers in the engineering industry are challenging the law that allows the Minister of Labour to extend a collective bargaining agreement to all employers in the sector. Vusi Mabho, engineering sector coordinator, spoke to Numsa News about how this issue threatens bargaining councils and centralised bargaining in general.

Why are employers challenging the law?
They want to destroy the metal and engineering industries bargaining council – the MEIBC – and collective bargaining in engineering. They want to be able to pay workers what they like without a centralised agreement.

Can you give us a bit of background?
On September 18 2011 we signed an agreement in engineering on substantive issues after a two-week strike. After the agreement was signed, certain organisations, including the National Employers’ Association of South Africa, Neasa; the Plastic Converters Association; and River Park Crane Hire, wrote a petition to say that this agreement must not be extended to them because they don’t belong to the MEIBC.

However the department of labour extended the agreement on September 26 2011 in accordance with the LRA.

What did Neasa do?
Neasa then went to court to interdict the minister. It said that the extension must be set aside. However, the judge dismissed their application. Neasa then appealed against this.

What happened in the appeal?
Neasa said that the minister had extended the agreement in terms of section 32(1) of the LRA, which requires the unions to represent the majority of workers. It said that the unions did not represent the majority of workers in the industry.

The judge agreed and reversed the earlier decision. But he suspended his decision for four months until April 20 2013 to give the minister a chance to extend the 2011 agreement in terms of section 32(5) of the act. This section allows the minister to extend the agreement if “failure to extend the agreement may undermine collective bargaining at sectoral level”. It only requires the parties to be “sufficiently representative” rather than representing the majority.

Is Neasa’s view that unions do not represent the majority valid?
The engineering sector includes house agreement companies, like Arcelor Mittal and Highveld Steel, and general engineering companies. In general engineering the trade unions’ membership sits at 49,27% but when you add lift and house agreements, it moves to 50% plus one.

What happens if the minister decides not to extend the agreement?
It could present a way for us to reopen negotiations in 2013. This would mean we would have to have a bargaining conference and put forward new demands.