Numsa embarks on strike in metals and engineering sector
Share this article:
The National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (Numsa) kicked off strike season yesterday with a call for an 8 percent wage increase plus 2 percent above the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in the metals and engineering sector, grounding industry that supplies the auto industry, mining and construction sectors.
Numsa said it would stick to its guns after negotiations which started in June this year stalled over the demands for the wage increases and family responsibility leave, among other demands.
At least 430 000 workers represented by the union are expected to participate in the indefinite protected strike for which there was no solution on the horizon by the end of the day yesterday.
Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) CEO Lucio Trentini said yesterday it was unfortunate that Numsa could call for a strike in an industry still reeling from the near depression of the economy and the heavy toll exacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Numsa’s demands are absolutely not affordable, we have offered a three-year deal, linked to 4.4 percent year of CPI in the first year, 2.5 percent in the second year and 1 percent on year three. Entry level workers in this industry, with provident fund, family responsibility and other incentives gives general workers something between R12 000 to R12 500,” Trentini said.
In Seifsa’s ambit, Numsa represents at least 100 000 workers who are participating the the strike action.
Workers last year forfeited salary increments in respect of the havoc brought onto the economy and industry by the Covid-19 pandemic, which is a major bone of contention in the current action.
Trentini said while Numsa’s demands were unaffordable, the industry was willing to negotiate and hoped to meet with workers representative to hammer out a deal.
“This could be worse than 2014, we are coming off base where the economy is not not shooting out the lights, we had a near economic depression and Covid-19 made a bad situation worse. In the last 18 months we have lost over 18 000 blue-collar jobs in the industry. We will work hard to avoid a similar situation,” Trentini said.
Trentini confirmed the cost of the industrial action is costly, with business having lost about R300 million a day in the 2014 strike.
The industry employed more than half a million workers a few years ago, a number that has been whittled to just over 200 000.
Numsa has deadlocked with all employer associations in engineering, including the National Employers Association of South Africa (Neasa), Seifsa, and the South African Engineers and Founders Association (Saefa).
“We are left with no choice but to strike and to withhold our labour indefinitely until the bosses give into our just demands. Bosses in the engineering sector do not want to give anything back to workers. They selfishly benefited from the sacrifice which workers made last year, when a Standstill Agreement was signed, and no increases were given, in order to cushion the industry against the ravages of the Covid-19 virus," Numsa said.
Numsa said it was time for employers to give back, and that “the bosses have conveniently forgotten about the painful sacrifices which workers and their families made for the engineering sector”.
Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali yesterday said that the strike on Thursday was legally protected and was focused on pushing both the government and the private sector to act to fix the economic mess that the country finds itself in and to take seriously the issues that were affecting workers and South Africans in general.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE