The Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council’s (MEIBC's) management committee has agreed to appoint a subcommittee to attempt to resolve the disputes declared by employers and trade unions in the metals and engineering sector.
Negotiations to conclude a wage agreement and an agreement on conditions of employment had deadlocked on June 15, with trade unions declaring a dispute against the employers and the employers declaring a counter-dispute against the trade unions.
Labour, at the time, refused to accept changes to terms and conditions of employment.
Negotiations restarted thereafter, but again reached a deadlock on June 21, when the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) again rejected the proposed 5.3% wage increase.
“Now that we have deadlocked, it will be up to employers to improve the offer. We hope that employers will come to their senses in time so that we don’t have to resort to a strike,” Numsa acting spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi said.
To resolve the impasse, the subcommittee will meet under the facilitation of a senior Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration commissioner on June 28 and 29 and July 5 and 6.
The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) will meet on June 26 to receive a comprehensive report on developments to date and to review and, if necessary, revise the Seifsa mandate going into the next important phase of the main agreement negotiation process.
Solidarity deputy general secretary Marius Croucamp told Engineering News Online the union hoped the next phase of negotiations might be able to resolve the dispute between the parties and deliver an industry agreement.
“I am hopeful, but not convinced, [that] matters will be resolved next week. The parties demonstrated a positional bargaining approach during the first few rounds . . . there was not an inch moved to try and get to a compromise or to steer the wage talks towards the settlement zone by any of the parties,” he highlighted.
For Solidarity and labour, there were demands on the table from the employers that were “just impossible” to agree to, including the employers demanding that the wages of new entrants to industry reduce by 50% compared with the current salary scale.
Further, the unions were also opposed to suggestions that the 5.3% offer be applied to the bottom of salary scales and not the actual wages being earned by workers, while employers also suggested that working hours be increased from 40 hours a week to 45 hours a week.
“The argument on point one by the employers is that it will stimulate job creation. We strongly disagree on that as employers might dismiss their current workers at the lower scales and employ new workers at the 50% reduced rate.
“It would also mean that a trainee artisan will significantly drop in remuneration that he is currently earning as a learner when he qualifies in his trade and starts to work as a qualified artisan,” Croucamp commented.