Numsa memorandum demands one, extensive deal in a fragmented sector

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Numsa began its national protected strike in the metal and engineering sector on Tuesday.
Numsa began its national protected strike in the metal and engineering sector on Tuesday.
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  • Numsa began its national protected strike in the metal and engineering sector on Tuesday.
  • The union kept to its demands, which include an 8% wage increase across the board in the first year.
  • The union also wants employer associations to sign an agreement that will be extended to negotiation non-parties in the sector.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) showed no sign of backing down on its demands when it handed a memorandum to the Metal and Engineering Industry Bargaining Council (Meibc) on the first day of its national protected strike in the sector on Tuesday.

The march and the memorandum it sought to hand over bring into sharp focus the adversarial spirit of recent negotiations in the sector as well as Numsa's ambitions to get an extensive agreement in an industry where wage negotiations have been fragmented for years.

The union kicked off its strike in the sector on Tuesday after declaring a cascade of disputes at Meibc with employer federations including the Steel and Engineering Industry Federation of South Africa (Seifsa) and the National Employers Association of South Africa (Neasa).

While Seifsa offered labour a 4.4% increase for the current year, 0.5% plus CPI in the second year and 1% plus CPI in the third year, Numsa has rejected that offer as "an insult", even ahead of the industrial action.

Upon handing over a memorandum of demands to the Meibc in Johannesburg on Tuesday, Numsa kept to its demand of an 8% increase across the board for the first year, and CPI plus a 2% improvement factor for the second and third year, with an option to offer 6% or reopen negotiations if CPI plus 2% falls below inflation.

The memorandum stated that Numsa was "declaring war" on an "opportunistic agenda" by employers and their associations to plunge already embattled workers into a "slavery national minimum wage".

"They adopted an opportunistic stance refusing to make a meaningful offer that can resolve this round of negotiations. This is the reason that NUMSA resolved to serve all employer associations with a notice for an indefinite strike, which begins today, 5 October 2021," the memorandum stated.

Extended to non-parties

The memorandum demanded that all employers instruct their associations to sign an agreement with Numsa in their majority so that the agreement can be gazetted and extended to non-parties throughout the sector.

"If conservative employer associations such as Neasa, CEO and Saefa [the South African Engineering and Founders Association] refuse to sign a settlement agreement that can end the current strike, our message to all reasonable employers is that they must leave their associations and join Seifsa in their numbers as an association of employers that has consistently negotiated and signed agreements in the past in the best interest of collective bargaining," the memorandum stated.

The memorandum also demanded that benefits be amended to include ten days' paternity leave, five days' family responsibility leave, and a travel allowance of R1 000 a month across the board.

It also demanded a cut to the Youth Wage Subsidy to employers, saying it only benefits employers. Employer associations have said employers have contingency plans to soften the blow of the strike but that they hope to reach a resolution with Numsa soon. 

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