Numsa on the cusp of a strike at Samancor as deadlock simmers

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Members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa.
Members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa.
Photo: Getty Images/File
  • The National Union of Metalworkers said it lodged a mutual interest dispute with the Metals and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council at Samancor.
  • While the union demands a 15% wage increase across the board, the company has offered unions 6%.
  • The company said the National Union of Mineworkers, UASA, and Solidarity, which make up 79% of the company's employees, accepted their offer. 
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The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) is on the cusp of a strike at chrome mining and smelting company Samancor, as the union and the company hit a deadlock in wage negotiations.

The union, which has majority membership at Samancor, said it lodged a dispute with the Metals and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (Meibc) over the weekend.

Numsa is demanding a 15% wage increase across the board; that the lowest paid workers at Samancor earn R7 000 after deductions; and a 100% medical aid contribution.

The company says the majority of unions have accepted its 6% wage offer and that it hopes dispute resolution mechanisms at Meibc and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) will help to resolve the deadlock.

READ | Numsa won't budge on 20% demand in auto wage talks

The Numsa statement said workers "carried the sector during the Covid-19 pandemic", but that the employer would not engage wage demands "properly". The union said it remained open to a resolution to the deadlock if the employer came forward with a "meaningful" offer.

"We are waiting for the strike certificate to be issued. In the meantime, we will be mobilising our members for a total shutdown of all smelters at Samancor. It is unfortunate that we have to consider this as an option, but the arrogance of management has provoked such a response," the statement said.

Numsa said in a statement that it was on the verge of a strike at Samancor after it initiated dispute proceedings.

"We lodged a mutual interest dispute which was heard with Meibc because Samancor management is not negotiating in good faith. The one-year wage agreement expired at the end of June this year," the statement said.

The Numsa statement said after an extended period of silence, Samancor "dangled the carrot of 6% directly to members" but did not table this offer formally during negotiations.

"They took it to members, and it was accepted by Solidarity and NUM [National Union of Mineworkers]. All of the other issues which our members have raised they did not engage on at all. Instead, they are imposing an increase of 6% and they refuse to deal with other burning issues," the statement said.

READ | Numsa wants double-digit increase in auto wage talks - even if it means a strike

Numsa secretary-general Irvin Jim said the Samancor's offer and how the employer handled it amounted to a provocation of Numsa.

"We have a duty to reject this principle where the employer thinks he can just impose whatever increase he wants. If it is 6% today, it can be 2% in the following year. The bosses at Samancor are undermining the principle of collective bargaining with this behaviour and they must be stopped," said Jim.

Samancor said in correspondence via email that 79% of the company's employees were members of NUM, Solidarity, and UASA. The company said these unions have accepted the wage increase and additional benefits. 

"It is regrettable that Numsa has misrepresented facts in their communication. No strike certificate has been issued and Samancor Chrome trusts that the formal processes at both the Meibc and CCMA will run its course," the company said. 

Samancor Chrome said it remained committed to the engagements and ensuring that all employees benefit from the wage agreement.

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