Metal players urged to resolve sticky issues

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant (Picture: GCIS)
Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant (Picture: GCIS)

Johannesburg - Unions and employers must iron out "sticky issues" and end the metals and engineering sector strike, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant's spokesperson said on Sunday.

"There are still sticky issues around labour broking, the youth wage subsidy, and housing, and the parties are being urged to resolve those issues," Mokgadi Pela said.

He said there was no update on talks between employers and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa).

"As you know, we met employers on Friday afternoon, and we met with Numsa in the evening. All I can tell you is that in terms of wage percentages the union is closer than ever before to the amount they wanted, but I can't tell you what the amount is."

Numsa started striking for a double-digit wage increase on Tuesday, and several smaller unions have joined in.

Union deputy general secretary Karl Cloete said on Sunday that negotiations were ongoing.

"We will know by tomorrow [Monday] what is happening," Cloete said.

Numsa has demanded a 15% wage increase and a R1 000 housing allowance in a one-year bargaining agreement. It further wants an end to the use of labour brokers.

On Sunday, police warned that "criminal elements" allegedly affiliated to Numsa would not be tolerated.

"Police will use all available information to identify and arrest the perpetrators," Lieutenant Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said.

"An appeal is also being made to the members of the public as well as owners of the affected industries to report criminal activities immediately to the police."

On Thursday, the biggest employers' organisation, the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of SA, tabled a three-year wage offer of between 8% and 10% for different levels of workers in the first year.

The first category of worker was offered 7% in 2015 and 2016, while the others were offered 9% in the second year, and 8% in the final year.

The National Employers' Association of SA has offered 8%, subject to an agreement for entry-level workers' wages to be lowered and measures to make the industry more flexible.

On Friday, 26 people were arrested in Gauteng for intimidation, public violence and malicious damage to property related to the strike.

Dlamini said of these 19 were arrested in Elandsfontein on the East Rand after protesters broke the gate of a business. When police arrived, the crowd stoned their vehicles. Police used rubber bullets to disperse them.

In Benoni on Thursday, around 2 000 striking workers forced their way into a company and caused damage estimated at millions of rands to equipment and computers.

In Wadeville, also on the East Rand, nine people were arrested for allegedly breaking windows at a business.

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