Court sets aside metal sector wage deal

2014-12-18 11:42

The Labour Court in Johannesburg has set aside the 2011-2014 metal sector wage agreement, the National Employers’ Association of South Africa said.

The 2011-2014 wage deal was the result of an agreement between the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa and trade unions, spokesperson Sya van der Walt-Potgieter said today.

The labour minister extended the agreement to employers not party to the agreement.

“The employers’ association has continuously pointed out the unconstitutionality and administrative incompetence, in various respects, of that agreement,” Van der Walt-Potgieter said.

“Over years the employers’ association’s arguments were ignored by the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council secretariat, the parties to the bargaining council, as well as [Labour] Minister Mildred Oliphant.”

In setting aside the 2011-2014 agreement, the Labour Court found that the agreement, which the labour minister extended, was not concluded under the auspices of the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council, Van der Walt-Potgieter said.

“The court also severely criticised the bargaining council and the department of labour for the irregular way in which it sought extension to non-parties of the the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa and trade union agreement.”

The employers’ association chief executive Gerhard Papenfus said the 2011-2014 wage agreement was illegally obtained and extended to non-parties.

“The Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council enforced the terms of this illegal arrangement, mercilessly pursued struggling businesses, which caused many businesses to close their doors,” he said.

“During the three-year period of this agreement the metal industry became less competitive and unemployment hugely increased. All this has happened while an illegal arrangement was enforced on small, medium and micro enterprises.”

In light of the negative impact the previous agreement had on the industry, the employers’ association found it “absurd” that the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council sought to also extend the latest agreement, signed in July this year by the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa and trade unions, to those not party to that agreement.

The employers’ association was fighting the extension of the July 2014 agreement.

At the beginning of December, the employers’ association filed an urgent notice to appeal a Labour Court ruling allowing the extension of the 2014-2017 agreement.

The employers’ association had previously lost a court application on December 1. This application formed part of its bid to stop the extension of a wage agreement to other unions.

The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa signed the agreement on July 29 on behalf of the 24 federated associations and two associations that were still involved in internal mandating processes.

In terms of the three-year agreement, workers would get increases of between 8% and 10% in the first year, 7.5% to 10% in the second year, and 7% to 10% in the third year.

Members of the employers’ association wanted a standardised entry-level wage and a revamped exemptions policy. It offered an 8% across-the-board salary.

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