5 August, 2021IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), says it will call for an indefinite strike if employers in the engineering sector continue to negotiate in bad faith.
Although NUMSA commits to further negotiations, the union says it will call for a strike and solidarity strikes in other sectors that includes automotive, energy, mining, and tyre manufacturing if the wage negotiations remain deadlocked. Another IndustriALL affiliate, UASA, is involved in the negotiations.
The union, which wants an 8 per cent increase, rejected the 4.4 per cent offer made on 12 July by the Southern Africa Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA) on behalf of the engineering employers. There were no wage increases in the sector in 2020 after an agreement was reached with the union and the employers not to increase the wages because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Irvin Jim, NUMSA general secretary says: “We reject government and business hiding behind Covid-19 to advance their consistently adopted attitude, which is to refuse to give workers their deserved wage increases and accord workers a living wage. It is important to state that just like businesses and government, workers carry the same burden in facing the tough socio-economic conditions. Workers provide for extended families, and in a stagnant economy, that further erodes their own buying power.”
“We signed the standstill agreement to secure the future of the industry amid economic lockdowns and challenges to suppliers and value chains. Together with our members, we ensured the smooth operation of businesses which are now breaking even, and some are making profits. We made such compromises being very clear that preservation of companies should translate to job security.”
NUMSA says it is disappointed that despite the workers’ sacrifices the companies “retrenched workers to strengthen their balance sheets and to make profits as they always see workers as the weakest link in the chain to be attacked.”
Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa says: “Engineering employers should commit to paying living wages that are above inflation and to consider the NUMSA demands for an outcome that benefits the workers. The Covid-19 pandemic should not be used as an excuse to pay low wages.”
Reports by the South African Revenue Service indicate that the economy is beginning to recover because of the current high prices of metals and precious metals exports that include platinum, gold, and iron ore as well as vehicle and transport equipment, chemicals, and other exports. The engineering supply chain is an important part of mining’s upstream and horizontal linkages and is benefiting from the high commodity prices.