“Over the last eight years, the wage rate that is negotiated in the Metal and Engineering Bargaining Council has grown further apart from the contract labour rate. It has surged to about 50% with annual increases in excess of 2% above inflation, as more companies are paying rates above the minimum wage,” notes Bullock.
He explains that the plastics industry includes larger, highly automated companies or labour-intensive small and medium-sized operations.
Bullock says that companies invest in faster, more efficient processing machines that require less labour, resulting in the drop in employment.
The plastics industry has to be responsible, comments Bullock, in order to create its own balance in using machines to replace labour, but in many cases it is forced to automate to remain competitive.
The association will be hosting a strategic workshop early this year to establish a strategy to retain skills and enhance job creation in the industry to enable it to be more sustainable.
“The Merseta and the plastics industry have embarked on a careers drive to deal with the setters and artisans skills shortage,” adds Bullock.
Meanwhile PCA is of the view that the black economic-empower- ment scorecard should include recognition of local content in the industry.
“There still has not been agreement within the Department of Trade and Industry to allocate points for local content, which discriminates against local employers rather than the agencies that import the finished product,” Bullock comments.
The South African plastics industry has grown by about 5% over the past year, amounting to a sales value of R30-billion.
Of this amount, raw material sales amount to R10-billion, while plastics converters have a value output of R20-billion.
About 850 000 t of polymers is produced from monomers derived from coal gasification. This means that the local industry depends on polymer imports to make up the balance of annual local consumption of 1,1-million tons.
PCA project manager Annab