Labour department moots metals strike settlement

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Johannesburg - A proposal by the department of labour to end the wage strike in the metal sector has been made, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) said on Monday.

"This is a proposal from the department of labour. Employers are meeting today [Monday] to consider it. We expect the proposal to be formally tabled on Tuesday, at a council meeting [between the unions and the employers]," said Numsa president Andrew Chirwa.

The department of labour and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) were facilitating the talks after negotiation between Numsa and the employer body - the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) - deadlocked.

Seifsa withdrew its conditional wage offer on Tuesday, after Numsa rejected it.

The conditional final offer was a 10% wage increase in 2014, 9.5% in 2015, and 9% in 2016.

Chirwa said once the new wage proposal had been formally tabled the union would consult its members for a mandate to accept or reject the offer.

He described the proposed offer as not being too far from the union wage demands.

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%.

Chirwa confirmed there was a proposal, but did not want to give details.

The National Employers’ Association of SA (Neasa), representing the interests of micro businesses, said it rejected the proposed settlement.

"The ministerial team of the department of labour has tabled a settlement proposal further out of reach of [small, medium and micro enterprises]," said Neasa CEO Gerhard Papenfus.

"What is particularly disappointing is that the ministerial team proposed a settlement arrangement which may satisfy the trade unions, but [will] accelerate job losses in the metal industry."

He said a short-sighted settlement would end the strike but would lead to long-term hardship across the board and would eventually bring about socio-economic instability.

"We urge the unions to look beyond the short-term interests of their members and to act in the long-term interests of the industry, which will bring about more sustainable benefits for everybody," said Papenfus said.

He said the new proposal included a three-year agreement with an increase of eight percent for workers on wage rate A in years one and two, a 10% increase for wage rates F, G and H for year one, a 10% increase in year two for wage rates G and H, an 8% increase for wage rate A in year three and 10% for wage rate H in year three.

Naesa has offered an 8% wage hike, subject to an agreement on the entry-level wage.

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