Metal employers denounce strike violence

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BR NUMSA 0028 Independent Newspapers. The National Union of Metalworkers striking workers march in central Johannesburg. The union wants a 12 percent salary increase, the scrapping of labour brokers, and a one-year bargaining agreement. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi.

Johannesburg - While workers' right to strike has been respected, there was no room for violence in the ongoing metal sector strike, employer organisations Seifsa and Neasa said.

“We condemn the current violence in the strongest possible terms and call on the police to arrest those perpetrating it and protect those on whom it is visited,” Neasa chief executive Gerhard Papenfus said in a joint statement.

“We also call on the leadership of the unions to call on their members to desist from violence.”

Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) chief executive Kaizer Nyatsumba said all rights went with responsibilities.

“All rights go with responsibilities, and the same applies to the right to strike,” Nyatsumba said.

“Violence and other reprehensible, criminal acts during a strike action cannot be condoned and should be punishable by law.”

Both Neasa (National Employers Association of SA) and Seifsa also called for Section 37 of the main agreement of the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC) to be tightened.

This was so employers would be protected from double dipping, where employees received income from two different sources.

They wanted the section changed to ensure it matched its original intention, when it was introduced into the main agreement in 1992.

“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,” Seifsa and Neasa said.

This followed recent Labour Court judgments on Section 37.

Over 200,000 National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) members in the metal and engineering sector downed tools on July 1, demanding a salary increase of 12 percent, dropped 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.

Earlier on Tuesday, Seifsa said it had “reluctantly” accepted the labour department's wage proposal to end the ongoing strike.

“Seifsa has reluctantly accepted Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant's proposal to offer wage increases of 10 percent to low-level employees over the next three years,” it said in a statement.

“A slim majority of employer associations...(agreed) on condition that the offer is accepted by the unions not later than Friday.”

Seifsa said its acceptance was conditional.

The new proposal included a three-year agreement with increases of between eight and 10 percent, depending on whether the workers were higher or lower earners.

The labour department and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) facilitated talks between Seifsa and unions, after negotiations between Numsa and the employer body deadlocked.

Numsa on Tuesday said it was holding a special national executive committee meeting in Johannesburg where it would consider the latest wage offer proposed by the labour department.

“(We) will solicit a fresh mandate from members,” the union said in a statement. - Sapa



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