010714 Numsa strike resumed today around the country.photo by Simphiwe Mbokazi 5

Johannesburg - South Africa’s biggest labour union will over the next two days consider a wage proposal to end a three-week strike in the metals and engineering industry.

The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa, a Johannesburg-based group whose members employ the most workers in the sector, accepted a Labour Ministry-backed proposal for a 10 percent pay increase per annum for low-level earners over three years.

The strike by more than 220,000 workers since July 1, which has affected companies including Toyota, General Motors and beverage-can maker Nampak, is costing the industry 300 million rand a day, according to Seifsa.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa has started to communicate the offer to its members, General Secretary Irvin Jim said by phone today.

The “sticking issue” of the proposal is that “for the duration of the three-year deal you can’t raise any substantive issues,” while the companies can restructure and outsource, he said.

Seifsa prematurely publicised the announcement of a wage offer before union members had the chance to consider the deal, Numsa said in an e-mailed statement late yesterday.

“We call on Seifsa to hold back and allow members to reflect on the proposed settlement offer,” the union said.


General Meetings


Numsa’s executive is discussing the offer and the group will convene a number of “general” meetings in the next two days to seek a mandate from members, according to the statement.

The country’s inflation rate was 6.6 percent in May, the highest in five years.

The labour organisations have until the close of business on July 25 to accept the offer, which could lead to a return to work on July 28.

The deal requires that future employment issues be negotiated at national rather than company or plant level.

The Solidarity union, which isn’t on strike, hopes the deal will be accepted, Marius Croucamp, head of metal and engineering for the union, said in a statement yesterday.

“We think that Seifsa’s latest offer is fair and we are convinced that our members will also welcome it.”

The walkout may lead to a slowdown in economic growth if it isn’t resolved, Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus said last week.

It comes after a five-month strike by more than 70,000 platinum miners that ended in June, which pushed Africa’s second-largest economy into contraction in the first quarter as mining output plunged. - Bloomberg News