The engineering sector narrowly escaped a strike by National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) workers after the union agreed to sign the wage proposal offered by SEIFSA, a federation of employer associations.
Numsa, which represents 129 000 workers in the engineering sector, threatened a sector-wide strike after wage negotiations stalled. This came after the trade union rejected a proposed 5.3% wage hike offer in demand of a 15% increase.
“Although Numsa had initially demanded a 15% across the board wage increase for our members, in recognition of the extreme suffering they experience as a result of low wages. However we decided to compromise because we wanted to save the bargaining council and to ensure that centralised bargaining is sustainable. We are also mindful of the dire economic situation which is affecting the economy and the impact that it’s had on the companies,” Numsa said in a statement.
“We believe that this is the best agreement in the face of the complex situation we face. In line with our worker controlled principles, we spent the last two weeks canvassing the opinions of all our members in all nine regions in order to get a mandate on the proposal. The majority of regions accepted the proposal”
The new collective wage agreement includes the following:
- A three-year wage agreement which will be backdated from 1 July 2017, which will expire on 30 June 2020.
- The new consolidated main agreement will be extended to non-parties and is binding to all in the engineering sector. The Bargaining Council shall be the sole forum for negotiating matters contained in the main agreement. During the currency of the agreement, no matter contained in the agreement may be an issue in dispute for the purposes of a strike or lock-out or any conduct in contemplation of a strike or lock-out.
- In the first year wages will be increased by 7% on the actual rates of pay across the board effective from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018.
- In the second year of wages will be increased by 6.75% on the actual rates of pay across the board effective from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019.
- In the third year wages will be increased by 6.5% on the actual rates of pay across the board effective from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020.
- Company-level agreements will not be affected by the provisions above. Furthermore, in the case of such existing company-level agreements, only party trade unions registered with the Bargaining Council will be entitled to engage with employers at company level.
The parties acknowledge that this agreement, from date of signature, will be backdated to 1 July 2017, covering all hours worked and related allowances.
Numsa said that although it is committed to fighting to improve the living and working conditions of its members and their families, it understands the negative implications of a strike.
“As a trade union we are always mindful of the damaging effects of a strike and the burden that it places on our members and their families. We are also aware of the dismal economic situation caused by the downgrade to junk status and the negative impact that this has had on the growth of the metals and engineering sectors,” Numsa said in its statement.
NUMSA has also been engaging in wage talks in the plastics sector, which it wants to align with the companies in the engineering sector.
“We do not believe the working conditions for our members in this sector should be different as they also fall under the MEIBC,” the union said.
Numsa is therefore making the following demands:
A 15% wage increase across the board based on the actual rate that a worker is earning, and not on the minimum rate.
- A two-year agreement.
- The finalisation of other outstanding issues during that period.
- The extension of the agreement to everyone in the plastics sector, even non-parties.