Numsa strike against retail motor industry ends

A National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) strike in the retail motor industry has ended with the signing of a three-year wage agreement, the union said on Thursday.

“We felt that having pushed the employers to the table [we could] go back to members and say the strike has been two weeks and we feel the continued strike might have some negative consequences,” said Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim.

Petrol attendants would receive an increase of 10% this year and 9% in each of the next two years.

Employees in component manufacturing would receive a 10% increase this year and 8% in each of the next two years.

Workers in other parts of the industry, such as panelbeaters, would receive a 9% increase this year, an 8% increase next year and a 7% increase in the third year.

“From our side, the increases we have agreed to are generous compared to CPI [consumer price index],” said Retail Motor Industry (RMI) organisation CEO Jeff Osborne.

“In these negotiations, it’s never a win-win, there’s always a give and take. I was impressed by the good faith in the negotiations and the spirit towards resolving differences,” said Osborne.

Jim said that in agreeing to a three-year agreement, the union had “secured” itself.

Victory for employers
“We have instructed that if CPI goes above [the wage increase] to 10% we will get 10%. We will get whatever is greater,” said Jim.

Osborne called the three-year agreement a victory for employers, as Numsa had initially wanted only a one-year agreement.

He said he hoped the three-year agreement would help re-establish investor confidence, which Osborne said was damaged by the strike.

“What remains unknown is the long-term effect on investor contracts and the possible loss of export contracts.
One can only hope that this three-year agreement will help ... will serve to restore some of the confidence levels,” said Osborne.

The wage agreement was passed by Numsa structures in eight of the nine provinces.

Jim acknowledged that the union had not achieved everything it had set out to do.

“We must be honest with our members, that we have not been able to secure the rest of the package,” he said.

This included such issues as abolishing labour brokers and increasing maternity leave.

However, Jim said the union had secured a commitment that these issues would be tackled in the coming years.

“As the strike is coming to end, it is important that employers not rest on the issues the workers have raised.”

Osborne confirmed that issues between workers and management would continue to be discussed. He said they had agreed to revive the Industry Process Forum.

“We’ve agreed to take up issues of mutual interest but not issues we would negotiate on. It’s not going to be dumping ground for issues left over from negotiations,” said Osborne.

Numsa was able to get employers to agree to minimum terms of employment.

This included limiting labour broking and setting its percentage in the industry at 35% after three years.

Osborne said the approach to labour broking would also include more oversight of the affected workers.

“We’ve not agreed to the banning of labour brokers. We’ve agreed to a new way of managing labour brokers,” he said.

Workers in the retail motor industry went on strike on September 1.

An offer of 10%, similar to the one agreed on, was rejected last week.

Numsa initially demanded a wage increase of 20%. - Sapa

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