Minority union likely to accept metal sector wage offer

2014-07-23 09:50

Labour union Solidarity says it is confident its members will accept the latest wage offer made by the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of SA (Seifsa) to end the ongoing metal sector strike.

“We think that Seifsa’s latest offer is fair,” said metal and engineering spokesperson Marius Croucamp.

“This offer is favourable as it is higher than the current rate of inflation. We are positive our members will also see it in this light.”

The Seifsa offer gives Solidarity’s higher-paid constituency like artisans 8%. The lowest-paid workers – whose interests are mostly represented by the larger National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) – have been offered 10%.

Croucamp said the smaller employer group, National Employers Organisation of SA (Neasa), had offered a final wage increase of 8% across the board.

For artisans this is identical to the Seifsa deal, but for the Numsa constituency it is lower.

It would be in the industry’s best interests for trade unions to accept the final offer so operations could commence as soon as possible, Croucamp said.

Earlier yesterday, Seifsa said it had “reluctantly” accepted the labour department’s wage proposal to end the strike.

“Seifsa has reluctantly accepted Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant’s proposal to offer wage increases of 10% to low-level employees over the next three years.

“A slim majority of employer associations ... [agreed] on condition the offer is accepted by the unions not later than Friday.”

The main sticking point is no longer the “political” issues of labour broking and the Employment Tax Incentive, but Numsa’s insistence on scrapping a major clause in the sector’s main agreement.

Section 37 prohibits unions from raising issues with cost implication at individual workplaces after the main wage deal is signed.

Numsa wants it gone, but Seifsa insists it is a pillar of the collective-bargaining arrangement.

The labour department and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration facilitated talks between Seifsa and unions after negotiations between Numsa and employers deadlocked.

Over 200 000 Numsa members in the metal and engineering sector downed tools on July 1, demanding a salary increase of 12%, dropped from their pre-strike demand of 15%. They also demanded a R1 000 housing allowance, and a total ban on labour brokers.

The union announced on July 13 that it had lowered its wage demand to 10%.

Numsa yesterday said it was holding a special national executive committee meeting in Joburg where it would consider the latest wage offer proposed by the labour department.

“[We] will solicit a fresh mandate from members,” the union said.

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