A group of more than 60 KwaZulu-Natal electrical contractors and suppliers is considering legal action against Eskom.]]> |||
Durban - A group of more than 60 KwaZulu-Natal electrical contractors and suppliers is considering legal action against Eskom, which has not paid them for services they have rendered since last year.
The contractors said they had been quiet about the matter, but were now compelled to make the public aware of the crisis. The non-payment had caused them to incur debts and have their assets repossessed by banks.
A spokesman for the contractors, Bheki Nxele, said they had now downed tools and, as a result, about 80 electrification projects across the province had been stopped.
The projects included the electrification of schools, clinics and homes.
“There is nothing happening and people (contractors) are up in arms,” he said.
The contractors’ work involved the installation of utility poles, connection of electricity from sub-stations to households and maintenance of electricity supply.
Nxele said there had been a good working relationship until October last year when the contractors first did not receive payments for work done.
He said they had been promised compensation ever since, but had still not been paid.
“Some contractors have been liquidated and others are in the process of being liquidated. (The) contractors owe suppliers and many suppliers have closed down,” he said.
Last week, Eskom representatives held a meeting with the contractors. Nxele said they asked if they should dismantle their teams or downsize, but Eskom said they should not.
“They said they are still going to give us more work once they have sort the problem out,” he said.
Another contractor, who did not want to be identified, said he had heard that Eskom would not be able to pay them until the next financial year. He said he was close to liquidating. Eskom had asked him to design vehicles exactly to their specifications and he had also paid for training for his workers.
Eskom spokesman Andrew Etzinger said: “We can confirm that there are contractors who have not been paid yet. An investigation has been launched, but we cannot disclose the details until the process has been completed.”
He said Eskom was working to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.
“We will ensure that infrastructure and related programmes are delivered.” - The Mercury]]>
Engineering union Numsa has agreed to end a four-week strike after accepting a wage deal from employers.]]> |||
Johannesburg - South African engineering union Numsa has agreed to end a four-week strike after accepting a wage increase offer from employers, union leader Irvin Jim said on Monday.
Numsa, South Africa's largest union, has accepted a 10 percent annual pay rise fixed for three years for its lowest-paid workers, Jim said, adding that members are due to return to work on Tuesday.
The walkout by engineering and metals workers had halted production at automakers and affected construction at new power plants in a country struggling with electricity supply. - Reuters]]>
Ethiopian workers strolling through the parking lot of Huajian Shoes’ factory outside Addis Ababa last month chose the wrong day to leave their shirts untucked.]]> |||
Beijing and Nairobi - Ethiopian workers strolling through the parking lot of Huajian Shoes’ factory outside Addis Ababa last month chose the wrong day to leave their shirts untucked.
Company president Zhang Huarong, just arrived on a visit from China, spotted them through the window, sprang up and ran outside.
The former People’s Liberation Army soldier harangued them loudly in Chinese, tugging at one man’s shirt and forcing another’s into his pants.
Nonplussed, the workers stood silently until the eruption subsided.
Shaping up a handful of employees is one small part of Zhang’s quest to profit from Huajian’s factory wages of about $40 (R420) a month – less than 10 percent the level in China.
“Ethiopia is exactly like China 30 years ago,” said Zhang, who quit the military in 1982 to make shoes from his home in Jiangxi province with three sewing machines and now supplies such brands as Nine West and Guess?.
Almost three years after Zhang began his Ethiopian adventure at the invitation of the late prime minister Meles Zenawi, he says he is unhappy with profits at the Dongguan Huajian Shoes Industry unit, frustrated by “widespread inefficiency” in the local bureaucracy and struggling to raise factory productivity from a level he says is about a third of China’s.
Transportation and logistics that cost as much as four times those in China are prompting Huajian to set up its own trucking company.
And the use of four languages in the plant – Ethiopia’s national language, Amharic; the local tongue, Oromo; English and Chinese – further complicates operations, Zhang says.
It takes two hours to drive 30km to the factory from the capital along the country’s main artery, illustrating the challenges. Oil tankers and trucks scream along the bumpy, potholed and, at times, unpaved road.
Goats, donkeys and cows wander along the roadside and occasionally into bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Minibuses and dented taxis weave through oncoming traffic coughing a smoggy exhaust.
Huajian is nonetheless becoming a case study of Ethiopia’s emerging potential as a production centre for labour-intensive products from shoes to T-shirts to handbags.
In a country where 80 percent of the labour force is in agriculture, manufacturers don’t have to worry about finding new workers. Its population of about 96 million is Africa’s second-largest after Nigeria’s.
A combination of cheap labour and electricity and a government striving to attract foreign investment makes Ethiopia more attractive than many other African countries, said Deborah Brautigam, author of The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa and a professor of international development and comparative politics at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.
“They are trying to establish conditions for transformation. It could become the China of Africa.”
Huajian’s 3 500 workers produced 2 million pairs of shoes last year. Located in one of Ethiopia’s first government-supported industrial zones, the factory began operating in January 2012, only three months after Zhang decided to invest.
It became profitable in its first year and earns $100 000 to $200 000 a month, he said, calling it an insufficient return that will rise as workers become better trained.
Under bright fluorescent lights, amid the drone of machines, workers cut, glue, stitch and sew Marc Fisher brown leather boots bound for the US.
Meanwhile, supervisors monitor quotas on whiteboards, giving small cash rewards to winning teams and criticism to those falling short.
China, Africa and global retailers all have stakes in Ethiopia and such countries as Tanzania, Rwanda and Senegal, which become viable production bases for labour-intensive products.
Promoting trade, boosting employment and spurring investment are among the topics that will be discussed at the first White House US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington from August 4 to August 6.
African countries have a compelling opportunity to seize a share of the about 80 million jobs that China will export as its manufacturers lose competitiveness, according to Justin Lin, a former World Bank chief economist who now is a professor of economics at Peking University.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who met on May 4, backed the move of Chinese industries to Ethiopia.
China is “supporting Ethiopia’s great vision to become Africa’s manufacturing powerhouse”, Hailemariam told reporters at a joint press conference in Addis Ababa.
Weaker consumer spending in the US and Europe after the financial crisis prompted global retailers to hasten their search for lower-cost producers, said Helen Hai, head of China Africa Consulting in Addis Ababa.
She ran Huajian’s Ethiopia factory until July last year.
While China’s inland regions offered manufacturers a cheaper alternative to the export-linked coastal areas, rising costs and a limited pool of available workers now are undermining that appeal.
Average factory pay in Henan, about 800km from the coast, rose 103 percent in the five years ended in September and 80 percent in Chongqing, 1 700km up the Yangtze River.
In the same period, salaries rose 82.5 percent in Guangdong, where Huajian has its base in the city of Dongguan.
Cost inflation in countries including China has prompted Hennes & Mauritz (H&M), Europe’s second-biggest clothing retailer, to work with three suppliers in Ethiopia.
The country has “great potential” for production, H&M head of sustainability Helma Helmersson said in an interview in April.
China’s average manufacturing wage is ¥3 469 (R5 900) a month.
Pay at the Huajian factory ranges from the basic after-tax minimum of $30 a month to about twice that for supervisors.
By contrast, average manufacturing wages in South Africa, Africa’s biggest manufacturer, are about $1 200.
The duty-free and quota-free access that Sub-Saharan Africa enjoys for the US and EU markets gives additional savings thanks to the African Growth and Opportunity Act for the US and the EU’s Everything But Arms accord for the poorest countries.
Import tariffs on shoes made in China range from 6 percent to as much as 36 percent, Zhang said.
A spokeswoman for Guess? confirmed that a licensee had done business with the Huajian Ethiopia factory in the past and might do so in the future.
A spokesman for Sycamore Partners, which owns Nine West, declined to comment on its business relationships and whether it had a relationship with Dongguan Huajian Shoes Industry.
Marc Fisher Footwear was making shoes in the Ethiopia factory, Jaclyn Weissman, a spokeswoman for the company, said in a statement.
Signs of Ethiopia’s allure include factories outside Addis Ababa set up by leather goods maker Pittards of the UK and Turkish textile manufacturer Ayka Tekstil.
Foreign direct investment in the country surged almost 250 percent to $953 million last year from the year before, according to estimates by the UN Conference on Trade and Development.
Zhang spends about half his time in Ethiopia, he says.
During the visit last month, he spoke to about 200 uniformed Huajian supervisors, a mix of Ethiopians and Chinese, gathered in the parking lot.
A giant plasma screen mirrored the crowd as Zhang hurried on to the stage.
He berated those assembled for a lack of efficiency, then praised them for their loyalty to Huajian, his words translated into Amharic and Oromo.
He ordered them to march on the spot, to turn left and to turn right, all chanting together in Chinese.
“One, two, one,” they chanted. “One, two, three, four,” as they marched in step.
Slogans followed: “Unite as one.” “Improvement together.” “Civilised and efficient.”
They sang the “Song of Huajian”, whose words urged “We Huajian people” to bravely move forward, to hold the banner of Huajian high and to “keep our business forever”.
Chinese supervisors led the song, their Ethiopian colleagues stumbling over some words and struggling to keep up.
Later, Zhang explained that he couldn’t be as tough on the staff as he would have liked.
“Here the management cannot be too strong as there will be a problem with the culture,” he said via a translator.
“In China you can be strong, but not here. The conditions here mean we have to show respect. On one hand we have to have strict requirements; on the other hand we have to take care of them. They have their own dignity. They may be poor but we have to respect their dignity.”
About 200 of the workers rebelled early last year, going on strike for two days after demanding a share of profits following a period in which Huajian’s orders surged, said Hai.
The incident was resolved with the help of Ethiopian labour officials, she said.
Five workers interviewed at the factory earlier this month described a workplace of strict standards, with rewards for good results and penalties such as docked pay for ruined shoes.
Taddelech Teshome, 24, said her day started at 7.20am after her Chinese employers provided employees with a breakfast of bread and tea.
When her morning shift during which she ferried shoes from the factory floor to the warehouse was over, she got fed the national staple, sour bread, for lunch.
After work, a Huajian bus took her to nearby Debre Zeit, a town where she rented a room with her sister for $18 a month.
She came to Huajian just over a year ago from her home 165km away in Arsi region after her sister started at the factory.
“The work is good because I pay my rent and I can look after myself,” she said, wearing an aqua Huajian polo shirt.
“It’s transformed my life.”
Taddelech said she wanted to work for two more years at the plant and become a supervisor.
She aspires to build her own house.
With inflation at 8 percent – down from 40 percent in July 2011 – saving cash is tough.
Mohammed al-Jaber, who earns $30 a month for gluing shoe linings eight hours a day, six days a week, said he could add to his pay with perfect attendance each month – a $7.50 bonus – and overtime.
Any extra gets sent home to his family in the Arsi region.
Once famine-plagued Ethiopia, run by former rebels since they overthrew a socialist military junta in 1991, is seeking investment to support a growth rate that is expected to fall to 7.5 percent this year from 9.7 percent last year.
The population is expanding annually by 2.9 percent, at a time when the urban unemployment rate is 17.5 percent.
Ethiopia aims “to transform the economy” via industrialisation by attracting foreign investors to zones where key public services will be concentrated, state minister of finance Ahmed Shide said in an interview in Addis Ababa.
One appeal for China: Ethiopia follows a similar tightly controlled, state-heavy economic model.
Opposition parties won only one out of 547 parliamentary seats at the last election in 2010.
Ties are strong between the Communist Party of China and the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front: On July 10, Central Committee political bureau member Guo Jinlong visited Ethiopia and met with Prime Minister Hailemariam.
The two pledged to enhance co-operation, the official Xinhua news agency said.
Ethiopia’s heavy public investment in infrastructure using credit from Chinese state banks promises to relieve some key bottlenecks.
The Export-Import Bank of China is funding a railway from Addis Ababa to landlocked Ethiopia’s main port in neighbouring Djibouti.
Ethiopia lost its coastline when Eritrea became independent in 1993.
The Chinese and Ethiopian governments also are investing in hydroelectric plants – including what will be Africa’s largest, the domestically funded Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile – that should increase Ethiopia’s power supply five-fold by 2020.
That may help overcome obstacles including the supply of electricity and cumbersome customs and tax procedures.
In May, a World Bank team went to visit a textile factory in the Eastern Industrial Zone, where the Huajian plant is located, and found they are faced with daily power outages lasting for hours, Ethiopia country director Guang Zhe Chen said.
“There’s a big issue if you can’t ensure sustainable power supply for industrial zones,” he said.
While countries like Ethiopia have the potential to host Asian manufacturers, a “surge” has not occurred, in part because of trade logistics constraints.
“Getting things in and out of Ethiopia is very expensive and time consuming.”
Ethiopia slipped one place to 125th in the World Bank’s 2014 Doing Business rankings for 189 economies.
It was behind China, at 96th, and ahead of competitor Bangladesh, which ranked 130th, the Washington-based lender said on its website.
It’s easy to forget that China’s infrastructure also was rudimentary at a similar stage of development, said Lin.
He recalls that the first time he made the 154km trip between Shenzhen and Guangzhou in southern China in the early 1980s it took more than 12 hours, including long waits for ferries to cross rivers.
The same trip now takes two hours.
“There were no bridges,” Lin said in an interview. “Nor were workers accustomed to modern production techniques. ”
Rising Chinese wages that Zhang calls “an inevitable trend” are pushing Huajian to try to increase its workforce in Ethiopia to as many as 50 000 within eight years.
A model of a planned new plant at the edge of Addis Ababa is displayed at the factory.
The 126-hectare complex, partly financed by more than $300m from Huajian, will include apartments for workers, a “forest resort” district and a technical university. – Bloomberg]]>
In the Netherlands, first came the shock, then the rage and now this question.]]> |||
In the Netherlands, first came the shock, then the rage and now this question: Can this nation go back to business as usual with Russia if investigators conclude that President Vladimir Putin’s government supported pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine who killed Dutch citizens?
On July 17, the Netherlands learned that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 had crashed in eastern Ukraine, killing all on board, including 194 Dutch citizens.
Among them was the temporary owner of a popular children’s book by Gerard van Gemert called Between the Posts, checked out from a Dutch library and found among the wreckage.
US and Ukraine intelligence said they believed that rebels had fired a surface-to-air missile, possibly supplied by Russia, and had mistaken the civilian vessel for a military transport plane.
Then came reports of pro-Russian rebels rifling through belongings of the dead for valuables, while rescue workers were prevented from accessing the site to recover and transport victims home.
“You first get the news that your husband was killed, and within two or three days, you see images of some thug removing the wedding band from their hands,” Netherlands Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said in a speech at the UN on Monday.
“To my dying day, I will not understand why it took so long for rescue workers to be allowed to do their difficult jobs.”
Pieter Broertjes, the mayor of Hilversum, meanwhile apologised for suggesting on a Dutch radio station that Vladimir Putin’s daughter, Maria, should be deported, even though it’s not clear she currently lives in the country.
The remark, he said in a tweet, came from a “feeling of impotence that many people will recognise”.
When the victims were finally brought home, the Dutch went into their first day of national mourning in more than 50 years.
Nilva Martina, a 63-year-old retired teacher who lost a close friend and relative, Kevin Jesurun, in the tragedy, expressed both anger and a sense of powerlessness.
“In the beginning I was angry,” she said, while attending an evening memorial march in Amsterdam on Wednesday evening.
“I said, ‘Netherlands and America, throw bombs, destroy everyone, destroy Putin’.”
Now, Martina says she is less angry and more resigned to the idea that nothing much will be done at all.
“There is no alternative. Europe needs Putin,” she said.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters in The Hague on Thursday that “we will make sure that justice will be done for all people that lost their lives” and that the downing of the plane was “a crime against humanity”.
In addition, an opinion poll after the crash in Dutch daily De Telegraaf said 78 percent of the Dutch want to impose sanctions on Russia even if that harms the economy.
It is far from clear how tough the Dutch will ultimately be in the months ahead.
This small nation is heavily dependent on its trading and banking ties to Russia and, as a founding member of the EU, is limited in its freedom to impose unilateral economic sanctions.
The Dutch pride themselves on their cultural openness and commercial pragmatism.
The Netherlands’ $800 billion (R8 trillion) economy punches above its weight class and the country is one of the richest nations on a per-capita basis.
Bernard Bot, a former Dutch Foreign Affairs minister, doesn’t consider confrontation with Russia wise or justified.
For one thing, there’s no evidence the rebels intentionally targeted the Malaysian flight, let alone Dutch citizens.
In addition: “Russia will remain our neighbour, we share our borders, we depend on Russian gas,” he said.
“There are a 101 reasons why we have to figure out how to resolve this issue.”
Unilever chief executive Paul Polman, a Dutchman who was in India’s Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel in Mumbai during a 2008 terrorist attack, said the problems in Ukraine and elsewhere “have their roots in poverty and in exclusion”.
Polman also said his company, which gets about 3 percent of revenue from Russia, had no plans to pull back from the country. “We have our long-term plans in every country, including Russia, and they are not changing right now”, he said.
Royal Dutch Shell, which lost four employees in the crash, has declined to comment on whether its business in Russia would be disrupted by the incident.
The company has about $6.7bn of oil and gas producing assets in Russia, is exploring for shale gas and plans to expand its Sakhalin-2 project there, according to research by Deutsche Bank.
Shell, the eighth-biggest company by market value, employs 92 000 people worldwide, making the oil producer the fifth-biggest employer among companies listed and traded in the Netherlands.
Its pension fund, which holds e22.4bn (R317.04bn) in assets, is the nation’s sixth-biggest.
Royal Philips called the incident “unacceptable”, while saying governments should lead the investigation.
The commercial ties that bind the Netherlands and Russia go back to the days of Tsar Peter the Great, who spent part of 1697 learning shipbuilding while living in Zaandam.
Two years later, the Russians set up a diplomatic mission in The Hague.
Today, Russia is the Netherlands’ seventh-biggest trading partner and critical investment destination for the Anglo-Dutch multinationals, such as Shell and Unilever. In 2013, both countries celebrated their bilateral ties in a year-long series of promotional events. At the Sochi Winter Olympics, Putin shared a beer with King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands at the Holland Heineken House.
Russia’s biggest oil, gas, mining and retail companies have moved tens of billions of corporate assets to the Netherlands or have used financial institutions in Amsterdam to route profits to low-tax, offshore financial centres like Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands.
The Netherlands, along with Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands, is a major transit point for the “round-tripping” of Russian investment money, according to a report last year by a UN agency.
Under that technique, Russian money comes into the Netherlands, is moved out to low-tax offshore financial centres and then sent back to Russia, offering legal protection against expropriation or arbitrary acts by the government.
“The Netherlands as a country will be juggling the fact that on the one hand it may want to hurt Russia in some way,” Gerard Meussen, a tax law professor at Radboud University in Nijmegen, said.
“On the other hand, we value our position as a country with an attractive tax climate. We are still merchants.”
Winding back Russian commercial ties would be particularly painful now.
The Dutch economy has experienced three recessions since the 2007 financial crisis.
In 2012, it earned about one-third of its income from trade, according to the Netherlands Enterprise Agency.
The Dutch port of Rotterdam is an important transport point for Russian energy exports.
The Netherlands also has to pay heed to the EU’s broader policy response and that means taking into account Germany and France, which have different economic interests at stake.
Instructing Dutch banks to withhold financings from Russian companies would have little meaning if other regional banks stepped into the gap.
“In practical terms, it’s almost impossible to do something outside of the EU,” Louise van Schaik, a senior research fellow at the Clingendael Institute – a Dutch diplomatic think tank, said.
“There is a lot of anger and calls for revenge, but that may not be a sound long-term strategy.”
Nor was ignoring Russia’s assertiveness and instability in the Ukraine, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, a retired Dutch politician and former secretary general of Nato, said.
In an interview with Het Financieele Dagblad, he called on Europe to stop slashing its defence budgets.
The current international situation was “without a doubt the most serious crisis since the Cold War and I don’t dare to predict how this will end”.
In the meantime, this country of 16.9 million continues to cope with a grievous wound and an effort is under way to identify the rebels directly involved in the downing of the Malaysian jet.
Public prosecutors in the Netherlands could try foreign nationals accused of war crimes against Dutch citizens, according to Willem van Genugten, a professor of international law at Tilburg University.
Yet even bringing the shooters to justice would be difficult if the suspects go into hiding in Russia.
Simone Veldhuizen van Zanten, who also attended the march in Amsterdam, said the crisis had left her “anxious” about the reaction of the Dutch government and other countries.
“I feel powerless to do anything,” she said. – Bloomberg]]>
An international company was awarded a local R51 billion rail contract even though it has been under investigation for corruption.]]> |||
Johannesburg - Neither the National Treasury nor the Passenger Rail Service of SA (Prasa) would comment on how an international company was awarded a rail contract worth a record R51 billion even though it has been under investigation for corruption in the past five years.
Alstom, the French maker of trains and power equipment that was awarded a R51bn contract to build trains for Prasa, was charged with corruption by UK prosecutors on Thursday.
The news came a day after Alstom announced it had taken record orders thanks to a huge rail contract in South Africa.
The contract is between Prasa, and Alstom South Africa and its empowerment partner, Gibela, to build 600 commuter trains.
Moffet Mofokeng, a spokesman for Prasa, said: “Prasa has run a competitive, transparent and fair procurement process with regards to our rolling stock fleet renewal programme. There is no corruption regarding our contract with Alstom.”
He added: “There is no link between Prasa and what you allege Alstom has done in the UK. Therefore, we are not in a position to comment about Alstom’s operations throughout the world.”
Mofokeng failed consistently to answer the question of whether Prasa knew Alstom was under investigation by the UK authorities when the Prasa contract was awarded.
A simple questionnaire by Prasa to bidders could easily have established this.
The funds have been allocated to Prasa by the Treasury, which referred all questions about Alstom to Prasa.
The National Treasury had not responded to inquiries by Business Report at the close of business yesterday.
The World Bank has a policy of blacklisting any corporation that is found guilty of corruption in any project it is funding.
In November 2006, the international lender declared Lahmeyer International, a German multinational, ineligible to be awarded contracts financed by the World Bank for a period of seven years because of corrupt activities in connection with the Lesotho Highlands Water Project.
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) announced six charges against the company’s UK subsidiary Alstom Network over offences that allegedly occurred in relation to large transport projects in India, Poland and Tunisia, according to a statement from the agency.
Alstom is in the process of selling its power generation turbine business to General Electric, with which it is also to tie up energy ventures as a result of controversial negotiations last month.
In its announcement on Tuesday, Alstom said orders taken by its energy and rail divisions doubled from the equivalent figure last year to e8.2bn (R116bn), with a strong performance by the rail division.
It is this division that Alstom, a builder of high-speed trains, now intends to make into the world leader – and its main business.
Alstom said: “This record performance derives essentially from a contract with Prasa booked in transport for around e4bn and a good flow of orders in renewable power and grid.”
The UK Bribery Act, which was passed in April 2010, is aimed at organisations operating on a global basis and has an extra-territorial application.
The SFO began investigating Alstom in 2009 and arrested three members of the company’s board in the UK in 2010.
While the London agency dropped that case, it might charge other individuals in relation to the probe shortly after deciding on whether to pursue the company, three people with knowledge of the matter said last month.
The alleged offences are said to have taken place between June 2000 and November 2006, according to the SFO statement.
The first hearing is scheduled for September 9, at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London.
Christine Rahard, a spokeswoman for Alstom, said: “The SFO has indicated that it has initiated proceedings against two UK subsidiaries of Alstom. The companies are in ongoing communications with the SFO about its investigation and will continue to work with the SFO to seek a fair and appropriate resolution.”]]>
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa plans to announce today whether it accepts an the latest offer.]]> |||
Johannesburg - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa plans to announce today whether it accepts an the latest offer from employers and end a month-long wage strike in the metals and engineering industries.
“The strike continues,” Numsa General Secretary Irvin Jim said by phone.
The union will probably announce its decision at 4 p.m. local time, he said.
The labour action by 220,000 workers is costing the engineering industry about 300 million rand a day, according to employers.
The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa, the biggest group of employers that’s known as Seifsa, offered a 10 percent annual wage increase for the lowest-paid workers for three years.
Numsa has rejected a clause in the proposal that would prohibit unions from debating employment issues with individual businesses.
“We are hoping that their internal discussion will allow us to conclude an agreement,” Seifsa Operations Director Lucio Trentini said by phone.
Central Bank Governor Gill Marcus warned last week about the effects of awarding of double-digit pay increases while inflation breached the bank’s target for a third month. - Bloomberg News]]>
Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim has called for the implementation of a national minimum wage to avoid future strikes.]]> |||
Johannesburg - The strike in the metals and engineering sector ended on Monday, after both the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and Solidarity accepted a wage offer.
“We are pleased to inform the public and the country at large that the latest offer is a product of sweat and bitter struggles by our toiling workers for a living wage,” Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said.
“The settlement offer has been overwhelmingly and unanimously accepted by our members. This is a massive victory given the pittance offer at the point of deadlock. For this we salute metalworkers.”
The new proposal includes a three-year agreement with increases of between eight and 10 percent, depending on whether the workers were high or low earners.
Jim said that a national minimum wage should be introduced in the country to avoid strikes and to ensure workers get paid a living wage.
He called on workers to report for work from Tuesday and asked employers to give workers until Thursday to return to work.
Trade union Solidarity also accepted the offer, spokesman Marius Croucamp said in a statement.
“The offer comprises salary increases of eight percent to 10 percent in year one, 7.5 percent to 10 percent in year two and seven percent to 10 percent in year three,” Croucamp said.
In terms of the proposal, section 37 of the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council collective agreement would remain in place, with a provision that existing company-level agreements stay in force.
According to the employers' associations: “Section 37 protects employers from having to engage in substantive negotiations at plant level, once a deal has been concluded on wages and related conditions of employment at national level.”
Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of SA (Seifsa) CEO Kaizer Nyatsumba said that a compromise had been reached over section 37, and that Seifsa was satisfied this would protect companies from two-tier bargaining.
“It is now incumbent on all stakeholders in the metals and engineering sector to work co-operatively together to grow the sector and to ensure that it is internationally competitive,” he said in a statement.
Jim said the union had succeeded in negotiating a formulation of the section 37 provision which was “legally sound” and would not disadvantage Numsa.
Meanwhile, the National Employers Association of SA (Neasa) said it would continue with a lock-out of striking workers on Tuesday.
“In view of the fact that unions refused to address Neasa's demands in these negotiations, Neasa employer members may continue to lock out workers who engaged in the strike,” it said in a statement.
“This arrangement will continue until Neasa’s demands are met.”
Neasa demanded that negotiations were reduced to a reduced entry level wage, an improved exemptions policy to allow for improved flexibility and an eight percent across the board increase.
Neasa said it would release a full statement on Tuesday morning.
Jim said Nearsa should ensure that they implemented the agreement and said if they failed to do so they would violate the agreement by employers.
“There will be no justification for employers to hold back what is due and what these workers deserve,” he said.
The Democratic Alliance welcomed the end to the strike and applauded the union and employers for reaching a settlement.
With the strike now over, we must also take a moment to reflect on the state of our nation’s labour relations,” DA MP Ian Ollis said in a statement.
“The DA remains committed to striking a balance between workers’ constitutionally guaranteed right to engage in lawful strike action and preserving the rule of law for the safety of all South Africans.”
The agreement would be signed at the Lakes Hotel, in Benoni on Tuesday at 2pm.
Over 200 000 Numsa members in the metal and engineering sector downed tools on July 1, demanding a salary increase of 12 percent, down from their pre-strike demand of 15 percent. They also demanded a R1000 housing allowance, and a total ban on labour brokers.
The union announced on July 13 that it had lowered its wage demand to 10 percent.
The labour department and Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration facilitated talks between Seifsa and unions earlier this month when negotiations between the parties deadlocked.
To understand the Middle East today and its future course, the Europe of the 19th century provides some intriguing parallels.]]> |||
To understand the Middle East today and its future course, the Europe of the 19th century provides some intriguing parallels.
The shared characteristics of the two places and centuries shed light on the magnitude of transformation that the Arab world is undergoing.
Reflecting on these parallels provides cause for both hope and fear.
Amid this bloody fight, a new architecture of the Middle East can be detected.
As the Cold War’s domination of the geopolitics of the Middle East recedes, a new architecture is emerging, reminiscent of that of Europe in the 19th century.
It is an architecture of mid-sized powers engaging in ever-shifting alliances and covert and overt struggles to expand and protect their spheres of influence.
Like 19th century Europe, there is a strong connection between countries vying for influence and the cohesiveness of their national, ethnic, sectarian and religious identities.
It is no accident the top mid-sized regional powers that have not had a history of being subject to the Ottoman Empire – Turkey, Iran and Israel – are those that enjoy the most distinct sense of national identity.
Turkey, for obvious reasons, has already gone through the difficult process of establishing itself as a country with a distinct identity.
As the heir to the seat of the Ottoman Empire, it is a natural regional power in the areas that were previously under imperial control.
While there is much to be done in terms of greater openness, democratisation and national expression for minorities, Turkey’s regime and coherence are only marginally threatened by the delayed “Ottoman Spring”.
Turkey is therefore well placed to play the role of a regional power.
Iran was never part of the Ottoman Empire.
In addition to its distinct Shia identity, it has a historic Persian identity that provides it with cohesion and coherence.
While its regime is highly vulnerable to the ideas of the Arab Spring, its national identity is less so.
Iran’s national identity seems stable even though there are minorities that might demand a greater voice, such as the Azeris and the Kurds.
Even if Iran’s regime were toppled, its borders and national coherence are likely to remain intact.
Coupled with its vast resources and power, Iran is also well placed to play the role of a regional power.
It has clear interests in expanding its sphere of influence, particularly when it comes to the Shia of the Middle East.
Israel is the third non-Arab regional player in the region.
Israel has been traditionally viewed as a foreign and colonial insert in the Middle East.
It is seen as even more an outcome of the colonial carving up of the Ottoman Empire than countries such as Jordan, Iraq and Syria.
However, the historical connection between the Jewish people and their land points to a possible transformation of Israel and the story of Israel in the context of the Arab Spring.
In this new context, the perception of Israel in the Middle East might change from that of a colonial foreign insert to the national expression of the Jewish people, indigenous to the region.
The Jewish people began their struggle for national expression with the European “Spring of Nations”, which is where they were located in the 19th century.
However, given that their national aspirations were always directed to the land of Israel, they are more properly thought of as a nation that arose to demand its self-determination in the Ottoman context.
Given that Spring of Nations came to the lands of the Ottoman Empire more than a century and a half later, it is only now that the Jewish people can hope to become accepted as an indigenous people in the lands of the Ottoman Empire.
Their unique story can now be understood as straddling both the European Spring of Nations and the Ottoman Spring.
The idea of Jewish self-determination was born in Europe, but it could be realised only in the ancient homeland, an area previously under Ottoman control.
The self-determination of the Jewish people then finally comes of age and could become accepted and locally integrated with the Ottoman Spring.
Israel’s democracy and power mean it is not domestically vulnerable to the Arab Spring.
At the same time, the acceptance of Israel as a legitimate actor in the Middle East has been the greatest obstacle to its ability to be an integral, and certainly an overt, party to alliances in the region.
If this negative perception changes, Israel might find itself openly accepted as a legitimate regional power.
While the top regional powers in the areas previously under Ottoman control are non-Arab, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are the most substantial players among those in the Arab world.
Egypt always enjoyed distinct cohesive character given its identity as a nation and people dating back to pre-Islamic times.
Saudi Arabia, while an outcome of the artificial carving of the Ottoman Empire, always enjoyed heightened status as the historical seat of Arab identity.
However, the ideas and forces of the Arab Spring present substantial challenges to the regimes of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
These regimes therefore need to invest far more of their efforts in preserving domestic stability, while also seeking to play a substantial regional role.
One more regional power worth mentioning is the new “czarist” Russia.
This is no longer the Soviet Union superpower player of the Cold War era.
As the Cold War-era architecture of the Middle East has receded and the Soviet Union disintegrated, Russia has returned to its traditional place as a regional actor in the Middle East.
Russia is now again a mid-sized power protecting its regional interests and seeking to expand and defend its sphere of influence in the area that is in its immediate vicinity.
All of these regional powers appear to be engaging, to one extent or another, in a web of shifting alliances, overt and covert, to protect their immediate interests and to prevent as much as possible any threats to the stability of their regimes.
While these alliances have not yet coalesced into official treaties with memorable names such as “the Triple Alliance” and the “Entente Cordiale”, they already seem to be playing traditional sphere-of-influence regional politics that would put the Europeans of the 19th century to shame.
Torn between these regional players and, notably, within themselves are Syria, Iraq and Libya, while other countries are in danger of being torn apart as well.
The borders of these countries do not match those of the peoples within them.
They are still in the throes of bloody battles between the old identities of sect, tribe, religion and ethnicity, as well as the new identities created in the wake of World War I.
The European experience, especially with respect to Germany and Italy, demonstrates that the battles in Syria and Iraq could have a profound impact on reshaping the geopolitical architecture of the region, especially if coupled with extremist ideology.
As the Shia parts of Iraq are becoming part of the Iranian sphere of influence and Iraqi Kurdistan establishes itself as a separate nation state, could the Sunni parts of Iraq and Syria join together to truly become the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria/Levant?”
Should the goal of the jihadists to create an Islamic nation in the lands of Iraq and Syria/Levant be taken seriously?
Could the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria/Levant, if established one day, be the Arab equivalent of Nazi Germany?
Could it be the newly formed state in the region’s midst based on a radical and murderous ideology?
This is only part of the litany of questions now seizing the Middle East, with uncertain – and potentially tragic – outcomes, much as was the case in the first half of Europe’s 20th century.
This is an abbreviated version of an article originally published in the Spring 2014 issue of Turkish Policy Quarterly.
To read the full article, please visit Turkish Policy Quarterly.
Dr Einat Wilf is an Adjunct Fellow with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and a Senior Fellow with the Jewish People Policy Institute. She is also a former member of the Israeli Parliament. Follow theGlobalist on Twitter: @theGlobalist]]>
The National Employers' Association of South Africa said it did not accept a Numsa wage deal.]]> |||
Johannesburg - The National Employers' Association of South Africa (Neasa) said on Monday it did not accept a wage deal that the striking Numsa union earlier announced to end a four-week stoppage in the metals and engineering industries.
“We are not happy with the deal that has been done and will lock out the striking workers from Tuesday,” Neasa spokeswoman Sya van der Walt-Potgieter told Reuters
Another employer grouping, the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa, had said it welcomed the end of the strike. - Reuters]]>
No exotic entertainment or foreign fast food, thanks, we’re South African, but bring on the nuclear power.]]> |||
Johannesburg - No exotic entertainment or foreign fast food, thanks, we’re South African, but bring on the nuclear power.
Immigrants who want to set up businesses in South Africa should forget about dancing girls or moving second-hand cars in and out of the country, and focus instead on skilled work like oil and gas, mineral beneficiation and ICT.
Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba has listed these business undertakings as “undesirable” in connection with applications for business visas: businesses that import second-hand motor vehicles into South Africa for the purpose of exporting them to other countries; the “exotic entertainment industry”; and the security industry.
These businesses are listed as undesirable in relation to applications for corporate visas: “exotic entertainment”; “hospitality industry”; fast-food outlets and franchises; and the “cosmetic and beauty industry”.
The details appear in amendments to the Immigration Act, issued this month.
In respect of business visas, the capital contribution to be invested in a new or existing business is set at R5 million.
“The capital contribution must be new machinery and/or equipment,” said one of the amendments.
There is a long list of approved businesses which qualify for a reduction or waiver of the capital requirements as they are “in the national interest”, ranging from aquaculture to nuclear power-generation.
These include: aquaculture; call centres; fleet management; foundries; digital TV and set top boxes for migration to full digital TV; spinning, weaving and finishing of textiles; white goods; boatbuilding; publishing, printing and reproduction; auto components; power-generation, including independent power-generation, nuclear build and renewable energy manufacture, advanced manufacturing, including nano materials, space satellites and lasers; hotels; adventure tourism; museums; production of vaccines and biological medicines; film studios; jewellery manufacture; fashion design; oil and gas work, including ship and rig repairs; seismic surveys, oil and gas exploration, pipelines, mineral beneficiation; wireless and telecom ICT and software development. - The Star]]>