The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) will continue a three-week strike after its regional branches accepted a wage offer from employers but rejected conditions relating to future pay negotiations, two union sources said on Friday.
On Wednesday, the union’s spokesperson Castro Ngobese bemoaned the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa’s (Seifsa’s) “hasty” decision to make public the proposed wage offer to try to end the strike in the metals sector “without affording the union an opportunity and a right to report back to members”.
More than 200 000 Numsa workers downed tools on July 2 to demand higher wages, halting production at car manufacturers including General Motors and affecting construction at new power plants. The union demanded a 15% wage increase, the banning of labour brokers and a R1 000 housing allowance, saying it wanted more than “apartheid poverty wages”.
This week Seifsa “reluctantly” agreed to staggered salary increases of between 7 and 10%, depending on an employee’s skill level, following a government proposal to break the impasse. However, in its offer Seifsa insisted on a tightening of a clause known as section 37 that is meant to prevent unions “double-dipping” or pressing for new demands at a factory or company level in spite of an existing industry-wide wage deal.
“The strike will continue because we have problems with changing section 37. They want to make the union weak and toothless,” said a union source.
Another source said Numsa was open to meeting with employers over the weekend to try and broker an end to the strike, which is hindering the economy’s growth.
Numsa officials declined to comment, saying their official position would be articulated at a news conference on Sunday.
The metals and engineering strike came soon after the end of a five-month walkout in the platinum sector, the longest and costliest strike in South Africa’s history. – Reuters, additional reporting by Sapa