Johannesburg - The wage settlement in the fuel retail sector that has brought the three-week strike in this sub-sector of the retail motor industry to an end has eroded the size of Wednesday’s petrol price reduction.
A resolution to the strike in the automotive component manufacturing sector, which has crippled vehicle production, also appears imminent.
The Department of Energy said on Friday that the price of 95 octane unleaded petrol and lead replacement petrol would decrease by 20c a litre, 93 octane by 19c a litre and diesel by 2c a litre from Wednesday. Energy Minister Ben Martins had approved a 4.9c a litre increase in the retail margin on all grades of petrol effective from Wednesday to accommodate the salary increase for forecourt attendants.
Azar Jammine, a director and chief economist at Econometrix, said on Friday before the department’s announcement that the over-recovery on the retail price of petrol was indicative of a 25c a litre reduction in the price but an increase in the retail margin to take into account the new wage settlement for petrol pump attendants might restrict the decrease to significantly less than 25c a litre.
Mphumzi Maqungo, the national treasurer of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), said on Friday that the union had reached an agreement with the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) on an 11.6 percent wage increase for employees in the fuel sector in the first year of a three-year agreement, with wages rising by 9 percent in both year two and year three.
The increase is equivalent to a wage hike of R2 an hour for petrol attendants.
Maqungo said workers would have been disadvantaged if the union had not signed the agreement on Friday because the minister would not have been able to sign off on the increase, resulting in it only taking effect in November instead of from next month.
Employees would return to work from today, but the agreement only applied to the fuel sector. The strike in other sub-sectors of the retail motor industry was continuing.
Maqungo said negotiations with automotive component manufacturers were scheduled to reconvene late on Friday and with the other sub-sectors at the weekend. The parties were still far apart and he was not confident a deal would be struck over the weekend because “the employers are so arrogant”.
However, Jakkie Olivier, the RMI’s chief executive and chief negotiator, said on Friday that the settlement in the fuel sector was a positive sign the three-week strike could soon be over.
“Although we have not yet reached a settlement for the rest of the industry, we are doing our utmost to reach an agreement because we are acutely aware of the disruptions the strike has caused and the damaging impact that protracted industrial action has on employers, business and labour,” he said.
Mark Roberts, the convener of the component manufacturing sector at the motor industry bargaining council (Mibco), confirmed yesterday that they had “not yet cracked” an agreement with Numsa, but that the automotive component sector was “close to a deal but there are still minor points to be resolved”.
Roberts was confident the strike at component manufacturers could be resolved to allow the sector to return to work tomorrow, and get the motor manufacturers back to work.
Reconvened negotiations between the RMI and Numsa about the automotive components sector had continued until late on Friday and they had given Numsa some exploratory settlement proposals to think about to get a deal approved.
“It’s a relatively nice wage proposal and we believe a very fair wage proposal under the current economic circumstances,” Roberts said.
Informal discussions were expected to continue yesterday.
He added that Numsa’s national executive committee was meeting in Port Elizabeth yesterday and Mibco had indicated to Numsa that it could meet them at short notice, if needed.
Once the negotiations about the component sector were concluded on Friday, discussions continued about the remaining sectors of the motor industry.
As in the fuel sector, in which petrol pump attendants would be back at work today, Roberts said, the automotive component sector was also trying to finalise a deal with Numsa to allow workers to return to work tomorrow.
Negotiations were continuing with the remaining retail motor industry sectors that had not yet reached settlements.
However, there were “some issues of principle to sort out” in the other retail motor industry sectors.
The strike at automotive component manufacturers has crippled the motor vehicle manufacturing industry because it has led to a shortage of local components, with production disrupted for more than a month because the strike in the retail motor industry was preceded by a three-week long national strike by workers in the motor manufacturing sector.
The strike in the retail motor industry has, among others, also affected workers in vehicle dealerships, tyre outlets, vehicle body repairers and engine remanufacturers. - Business Report