Sacci concerned about Numsa strike

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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 - The strike in the metals and engineering industries is economically and socially worrying, the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) said on Friday.

“The high economic costs and severe infringement on the rights of South African citizens indicate that government must intervene to avert anarchy,” chief executive Neren Rau said in a statement.

Majority union in the sector the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) embarked on an indefinite strike on Tuesday.

Several smaller unions have joined the strike.

Numsa is demanding a one-year bargaining agreement, including a 15 percent wage increase, a R1000 housing allowance, and the scrapping of labour brokers.

On Thursday, the biggest employers' organisation, the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of SA (Seifsa), tabled a three-year wage offer of between eight and 10 percent for different levels of workers in the first year.

In 2015 and 2016, the first category of worker was offered seven percent, while the others were offered nine percent in the second year, and eight percent in the final year.

Seifsa and the National Employers' Association of SA (Neasa) have complained that some of their members reported damage to property and violence accompanying the strike.

Seifsa has expressed concern that Numsa refused to sign a peace accord.

Sacci condemned any criminal acts accompanying the strike.

“These acts are barbaric and is a clear indication that Numsa is either unwilling or unable to control its members,” Rau said.

Seifsa and non-striking union Solidarity have called on police to intervene in the strike.

On Thursday, Numsa spokesman Castro Ngobese said Numsa members had been disciplined since the strike began, in line with the union's disciplinary code of conduct.

The union was angered by calls for police to intervene.

“Seifsa should not open unhealed wounds. Workers have not forgotten their comrades were slaughtered in Marikana by the police,” he said in a statement at the time.

On August 16, 2012, 34 people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead at Lonmin's platinum mining operations in Marikana, North West, in a clash with police. Police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.

Rau said that if Numsa was opposed to possible police intervention in strike-related violence, this was “dangerously close to propagating sedition and public disorder”.

Sacci advocated the introduction of compulsory secret strike balloting, which it believed would moderate the country's sometimes volatile industrial relations.

“The current strike behaviour further motivates Sacci's call to review the industrial relations framework, stronger enforcement of discipline during strikes, and government intervention in strikes that cause excessive economic costs and instability.”

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant is expected to meet Seifsa and Numsa later on Friday, following her meeting with Numsa on Monday, spokesman Mokgadi Pela said. - Sapa

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