Metalworkers still disgruntled

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Numsa StrikersBlue INDEPENDENT MEDIA National Union of Metalworkers march in this file photo. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi.

Johannesburg - Turmoil in the metal and engineering sector is far from over, with both labour and many employers threatening to go to court over wage increases.

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) also announced yesterday that its members would not be returning to work at companies affiliated to the National Employers Association of SA (Neasa).

This follows Neasa’s threat to lock out employees returning to work yesterday because Numsa had not agreed to the association’s demands.

Numsa has been on strike in the sector for nearly a month.

While the strike seemed to have come to an amicable end this week, Neasa’s revolt threatens to throw a spanner in the works.

It could also be the catalyst for a much longer and more bitter conflict, with both sides threatening court action.

The strike was costing the economy R300 million a day.

Neasa claims it can pay workers only an 8 percent salary hike for the next three years.

The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of SA is going to give the lowest-paid employees a 10 percent raise for each of the next three years.

Yesterday, Numsa said it was consulting lawyers regarding the lockout.

“I think one of the things we’re debating is the legality of this lockout. But we’re not in a rush. Today we’ve signed and Neasa is part of this bargaining council,” union general secretary Irvin Jim said.

“If they want to meet with us, we’re ready to meet and to listen to their challenges. (But) we’re not opening any negotiations with them – they must comply with the signed agreement.”

Jim warned Numsa members not to sign any documents given to them by employers.

He said the union was still on strike in companies that were locking out their members, and called on workers who were not locked out to join the picket line in solidarity.

Neasa’s dispute around the agreement centres on its perception that it was sidelined, and its issues and demands were not discussed during wage negotiations. - The Star

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