Johannesburg - The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) is prepared to strike indefinitely following a deadlock in negotiations with the metals and engineering industries, it said on Thursday.
Numsa announced that around 220,000 of its members would go on strike in these industries from Tuesday.
“... We say we will not be starved into submission. Indefinite is indefinite,” deputy general secretary Karl Cloete said.
The industries' previous agreement, a three-year deal signed in 2011, expires on Monday.
The union's demands include a 12 percent wage increase in a one-year bargaining agreement. Numsa initially demanded 15 percent, but subsequently lowered its demand.
Employers have tabled a three-year wage settlement offer of between seven and eight percent for different levels of workers in the first year, and CPI-linked increases for 2015 and 2016.
Cloete said the union believed this gap could be closed.
“If bosses are concerned about the futures of their companies in the sector, it could be settled within a week, within a day,” Cloete said.
The union would not settle for less than a double-digit increase.
During the three months of negotiations prior to the decision to strike, employers had revealed themselves as “stubborn and intransigent”.
The engineering and metals industries strike would effect small, medium and large companies, encompassing over 220,000 union members at 10,000 workplaces nation-wide.
Cloete said a strike in these industries would have a “domino effect” as the metals and engineering companies supplied services and goods which almost all other major industries in the country relied on.
He warned employers against weakening the strike through bringing in temporary labour.
“We are going to bring the industry to a standstill. They must not be tempted to use scab labour... they invite strike violence.”
Cloete also rejected employers' assertions that the desired increases were unaffordable because South Africa's economy was weak.
“Bosses and the state, why are you not concerned about levels of poverty?”
Numsa saluted the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) for its five-month platinum mining sector strike. This should stimulate workers in other sectors to demand a “living wage”, Cloete said.
“The settlement secured after bitter battles between workers and the mining capitalists has since called on workers to unite beyond the logos of T-shirts of their unions.”
He denied, however, that Numsa was working with Amcu to sabotage South Africa's economy”.
“Such insinuations are so far-fetched... they can only be spread by those whose brains are crowded or ingrained with conspiracy theories.” - Sapa