The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has served notice that it intends to start picketing following failed wage negotiations with the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa).
The federation says it views this notice as “premature, ill-informed and procedurally defective” in that picketing may only be embarked on in support of a protected strike or in opposition to a lock-out.
To date, Seifsa reports, neither party or parties have served strike and/or lock-out action on the other and negotiations aimed at breaking the deadlock are ongoing.
The federation tells Engineering News that it is meeting with all the trade unions later in the week and next week, under the auspices of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration and Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC).
Seifsa first made a wage offer at the MEIBC on July 28, during which other unions indicated a willingness to accept the offer.
The federation suggested that workers receive a 4.4% increase this year, a consumer price inflation (CPI) plus 0.5% increase in 2022 and a CPI plus 1% increase in 2023.
The wage offer includes a special phase-in dispensation that is aimed at encouraging greater support for centralised collective bargaining. The phase-in dispensation will be offered to employers who are currently paying below the current minimum rates and are not members of an employer organisation that is party to the main agreement.
Seifsa says centralised collective bargaining is more necessary than ever before to ensure the survival and recovery of the industry.
On the other hand, Numsa believes the special phase-in dispensation, which introduces a new entry rate ranging between R20 and R29 an hour, will allow employers who have not been paying the minimum rate of R49 an hour to continue doing so for 15 years. This could mean that existing workers who earn R49 an hour are likely to be retrenched in favour of workers who earn R29 an hour or less.
The union says there are existing exemptions that can be used when required, to justify employers paying lower rates.
"Our members are feeling the full brunt of the effects of Covid-19 on the economy, it is a disgrace that employers are not trying to meet us half way in these talks," Numsa states.
Seifsa acknowledges that Section 17 of the Constitution recognizes the right to assemble and demonstrate.
Importantly, this constitutional right can only be exercised peacefully and unarmed.
Should members receive a request from their local trade union official, shop steward/s and/or union members to conduct, participate-in and/or arrange a peaceful demonstration, in workers own time and on company premises, this may only be done with the explicit permission of management.
In the event that such permission is granted, the demonstration must take place at a designated area and in full compliance with all Covid-19 lock-down restrictions and regulations and importantly all health and safety protocols - including masking, physical distancing and group size.
Seifsa explains, citing legislation, that should any demonstration spills over into normal working time, management reserves the right to immediately implement the rule of no-work; no-pay, while any action spilling over into normal production time where no prior management approval has been granted will result in management reserving its right to implement appropriate disciplinary action;
The federation warns that any action resulting in any disruption to work and/ or infringing on the rights of other employees who have no interest in the action will also result in disciplinary action; and any overtime worked during the course of the week will be paid at ordinary rates to make up for the lost ordinary working hours as a result of the unauthorised action.
Seifsa says it remains committed to continuing negotiations to secure an agreement within its mandate, but should insutrial action arise, it will advise its member companies accordingly.