Johannesburg - Workers want a 15% wage hike and the amount should not be construed as outrageous, says National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) spokesperson Castro Ngobese.
More than 220 000 Numsa members could go on strike in the metals and engineering sector next month, the union said on Thursday.
"The bargaining negotiations have spectacularly failed to produce the desired outcomes as expected by the thousands of our members in the sector," spokesperson Castro Ngobese said in a statement.
Numsa's core demands included a 15% pay rise and a one-year bargaining agreement.
"Our lowest paid members, those who work in gate and fencing and contract workers for capital built projects such as Medupi and Kusile earn a paltry R3 050 per month, while it is common cause that these contracting companies are reaping millions of rands from their contracts with Eskom."
He said the demand for a 15% increase could not be construed as outrageous, because for these workers it would improve their salaries by only R450 a month.
The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of SA (Seifsa) said in a statement the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC) would hold intensive talks during the next month in an attempt to resolve the disputes, the first declared by the unions and another by the employers.
Seifsa, which represents 23 employer associations, said employers offered an inflation-linked increase of 6.1 percent.
Seifsa CEO Kaizer Nyatsumba said the industry could ill afford a strike.
"Our approach to the negotiations has been informed by the need to maintain existing jobs and to create new ones.
"We are concerned that our economy has not performed well in recent years, with the metals and engineering industry being among the sectors most threatened by cheap imports."
The sector's previous agreement, a three-year deal signed in 2011, would expire on June 30. This meant that it was possible that protected strike action relating to the deadlocked talks could take place next month.