Metal and engineering wage deal in dispute

Wiseman Khuzwayo

A three-year national wage settlement in the metal and engineering sector may be scrapped because of a technical error when it is challenged in arbitration.

The National Employers Association of SA (Neasa) said it had spotted a deficiency in the wage agreement signed in July last year by the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of SA and unions, under the auspices of the metal and engineering industries bargaining council (MEIBC).

The agreement was gazetted by Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant and made binding on non-signatories.

Neasa, which was a non-signatory but is a member of the bargaining council, said the agreement, as gazetted, provided for the wage increases of only Grade A and H employees for year two and year three – at 7 percent for Grade A and 8 percent for Grade H.

The new wages were supposed to take effect last Sunday.

Neasa contended that wage tables between grades A and H did not form part of the deal.

MEIBC operations manager Nick Faasen referred queries to technical administrator Malcom Owen, who was unavailable.

Neasa said it had pointed out this defect during a management committee meeting of the MEIBC in May and advised the council to correct it and ask the minister to extend the new wage rates to non-signatories.

Since the MEIBC did not act on the Neasa proposal, it circulated notices in the industry about three weeks ago about the wage tables and rates.

“Neasa on June 19 referred a dispute against the MEIBC and requested that the matter be referred to arbitration,” it said.