Numsa Numsa General secretary Irvin Jim. File picture: Picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso

Johannesburg - A nationwide strike is looming in the engineering sector after talks failed as the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) rejected the latest offer from employers and requested a certificate of non-resolution in a bid to go on strike.

Numsa is demanding a two-year 15% wage increase "across the board" backdated from the July 1, 2017 and also extended to non-parties and employer associations like the National Employers Association of South Africa (Neasa) and the Plastics Converters Association of South Africa (Pcasa).

The metal and engineering sector talks come as the wage agreement lapsed at the end of June. In 2014, Numsa went on strike after talks for "a living wage" and "improved working conditions"' in the metal sector deadlocked.

Employers in the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC) have offered wage increases in terms of the minimum rate.

However, Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi said on Friday that employers wanted to implement a minimum rate of R20 per hour for new entrants to the sector, when the present minimum was R40.

Hlubi said Numsa rejected this offer with the contempt it deserves.

"This agreement will make working conditions worse. The proposal is causing chaos in the Engineering sector by ensuring that workers who fought to earn more, now risk being downgraded to this pathetic poverty wage of R20 per hour," Hlubi said, adding that Numsa was sceptical that employers would keep their word that those who earn more will not get downgraded. 

"We know that in reality, there is no one to stop them from paying workers half of what they should earn. If we were to agree to this ridiculous proposal, then new workers will suffer, and those already employed will earn less than what they are earning now," said Hlubi.

She said Numsa will "fight to block" the employers from implementing this "poverty wage". 

"We have requested a certificate of non-resolution which will allow us to go on strike," Hlubi said. 

"We have to wait until the July 15 to see if we will be granted a strike certificate. Numsa will not back down and we will not be bullied. We will fight with all our might to protect the rights of our members and their families, and to ensure a life of dignity for them."