The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) on Friday warned of an imminent strike in the local metals and engineering sector, after the latest round of negotiations reached a deadlock on Thursday.
The union is demanding a two-year 15% wage increase across the board, based on the actual rate that a worker is earning, and not on the minimum rate.
It is also demanding the extension of the agreement to nonparties, including employer associations such as National Employers Association of South Africa (Neasa).
The union says its demands have fallen on deaf ears since negotiations started.
In a meeting with the Metals and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council subcommittee on Thursday, employers tabled a revised position covering a three-year agreement and an offer to increase wages on actual rates of pay by 5.3% and by 5.5% on the minimum scheduled rates.
The revised offer was supported by all Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa- (Seifsa-) affiliated associations; however, Neasa elected not to associate itself with the offer. The Border Industries Association also did not participate directly in the process.
Numsa, along with other industry unions, has again rejected the offer, noting that the agreement will make working conditions worse. “We warned the African National Congress that the National Minimum Wage they had proposed would have disastrous consequences, but they ignored us,” the union said.
The union was also concerned that, if it agreed to the proposal, those already employed would earn less than what they are earning now.
Numsa has now requested a certificate of nonresolution, allowing it to strike. It expects an outcome by July 15.
Some trade unions, however, have indicated their in-principle support for certain aspects of the offer and others have expressed a willingness to continue to engage with employers in an ongoing effort to reach an agreement.
Noting that industrial action in this sector has been characterised by extreme violence, intimidation and damage to property in the past, Neasa advised employers to approach the Labour Court for an order interdicting the unions and their supporters from committing “these unlawful actions”.
It noted that it has already geared its litigation division to deal with these applications speedily and efficiently.
“We advise employers to put measures in place which will enable the company to apply for an interdict within the shortest timeframe,” CEO Gerhard Papenfus said.