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Union wins as strike action ends in three-year wage agreement

26 October, 2021The three weeks engineering and metals sector national strike ended when a three-year wage agreement with an offer of six per cent was signed by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) on 21 October.

IndustriALL affiliate NUMSAsigned the agreement with the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA), which represents most of the employers in the sector.

The union wants the agreement to be extended to other employer organizations that include South African Engineering and Founders Association (SAEFA) and National Employment Association of South Africa (NEASA) who the union says are “anti-worker and union bashers.” NUMSA wants these employer associations to sign the agreement and not be “free riders” who implement the wage deal without being party to the agreement. The union says all workers in the industry should benefit from the wage agreement.

On 25 October, Macsteel, a large steel manufacturing company, heeded the call by NUMSA and became one of the first employers from SAEFA to sign the agreement.

The strike began when wage negotiations were deadlocked with the union demanding eight per cent and rejecting the initial employers offer of 4.4 per cent. The union argued that workers sacrificed for the survival of the industries when they agreed to no wage increases in 2020 to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on the sector.
Irvin Jim, NUMSA general secretary says:

“We have taken a conscious decision that as a union we will compromise and accept the current offer from SEIFSA of six per cent on minimums for the sole purpose of settling the current strike in the best interest of our members. It is NUMSA members who have paid a heavy price during the strike, and it is in their interest that the union does everything possible to ensure that we resolve the strike as soon as possible, as each day on a strike is a sacrifice – according to the no-work-no-pay rule. The agreement further safeguards the industry rates of pay and workers will receive their backdated pay from 1 July, 2021.”

Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa says:

“We applaud NUMSA on its tough negotiating strategy which resulted in this wage deal that is crucial as it will maintain living wages in the engineering and metals sector for the next three years.”