Metal industry employers withdraw quick-fix 'final offer'

Seifsa said it would not be presenting a new offer to Numsa. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Seifsa said it would not be presenting a new offer to Numsa. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Numsa has plans to intensify its strike but the organisation representing steel companies says it has no mandate to continue talking to the union.

The largest employer in the metals and engineering sector said it has exhausted its mandate following the union’s rejection of its final wage offer on Monday.

The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) said it would not be presenting a new offer to the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), which claims to represent 220 000 workers in a strike that has persisted for two weeks.

Kaizer Nyatsumba, Seifsa’s chief executive, said that contrary to some media reports the organisation had made no commitment to return to the union with a new wage offer, and that the offer of a 10% increase in the first year of a three-year wage deal was off the table entirely.

“Instead, we made it clear that we have exhausted our mandate,” he said in a statement released by Sifsa on Tuesday.

“We also explained, during our meeting with the Numsa leadership yesterday morning, that the final offer made last week – which was intended to end the strike and to see employees back at work this week – failed to accomplish its goal and has since been withdrawn.”

Seifsa said the final offer was 10% in 2014, 9.5% in 2015 and 9% in 2016, and was made on condition that it would lead to a quick settlement and end the industrial action.

But Numsa publicly rejected the offer on Sunday and Nyatsumba said that Seifsa had reverted to its previous offer of 10% in 2014 and 9% in both 2015 and 2016. For higher-earning artisans, the offer remained 8% in 2014, 7.5% in 2015 and 7% in 2016.

“We are deeply concerned about the enormous damage wreaked on the economy by the strike, hence our determination last week to bring it to a speedy end. It is regrettable that our final offer, intended to end the strike, was not accepted, with the current industrial action continuing to damage our economy,” Nyatsumba said.

Plant-level negotiations
According to Business Report, the strike – which does not include workers in the automotive sector – has hit the industry nonetheless, with “production at four of the seven local vehicle plants either severely disrupted or halted because of component shortages”.

According to Seifsa, no follow-up meetings are scheduled with the union and the organisation will not return for a mandate on plant-level negotiations and labour broking.

“We have indicated all along that we would not be able to sign any agreement that did not protect employers from the threat of double dipping, with matters which impact on the total cost of employment negotiated both at national level through collective bargaining and subsequently at plant level,” the organisation said. “It remains critically important for us that we reach a mutually acceptable agreement on section 37 of the main agreement.”

Numsa has included the banning of labour brokers in the industry as one of its demands but Seifsa has consistently said that the matter has to be raised with the government and not the employers.

When asked for comment, Numsa spokesperson Castro Ngobese said: “Our statement from yesterday still stands.”

Rejected offer
The statement confirmed the union had rejected what it termed “Seifsa’s final wage offer” but said that after Monday’s meeting the employer organisation had “made an undertaking to go back to their council for mandate”.

Numsa has said it is waiting for feedback from a Seifsa representative.

Ngobese said Numsa was currently meeting to consider a detailed plan to intensify the strike.

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