Steel sector strikes hits obstacles on semantics in ongoing pay talks
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THE LOCKED horns between organised labour and employers in the steel and engineering industry continues into the third week as a concessionary 2 percent drop to actual pay from workers in the battle was yesterday ruled out by employers.
National Union of Metal Workers of SA (Numsa) spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said workers rejected the offer of a 6 percent wage increase made by the employer association, the Steel and Engineering Federation of SA (Seifsa) on the basis that it was based on minimums and not on the actual rates of pay.
“Our members want an increase on the actual rates of pay, that is the mandate we were given. We do not think we are that far from each other with Seifsa because we agree on the percentage. We disagree on how it is being applied and this is something we believe employers can afford to compromise on,” she said.
Hlubi-Majola said the global steel industry had recovered from the impact of lockdowns and the Covid-19 pandemic, and according to news reports, by April this year, the global price of iron ore had doubled, meaning the engineering industry has benefited from this performance on the markets.
The last time an agreement was gazetted and extended to all parties was in 2014, which means workers who do not fall under Seifsa, the majority, were denied a meaningful increase.
“This is because of rogue associations like Neasa, Saefa and the chief executive, which were not implementing the minimum rate of pay as prescribed by the Metals Engineering and Industries Bargaining Council. These workers got whatever increases, (if any) that these employers imposed on them,” she said.
Seifsa chief executive Lucio Trentini said yesterday that the federation would not budge on the final notice it had given workers on the best rate, which he said was the “highest offer with guarantees of above inflation rate increases.
“This is our best offer. There will be no further move from that offer,” Trentini said.
The United Association of South Africa (Uasa), throwing its hat into the ring, said a wage agreement had been concluded, which would see members employed by Seifsa -affiliated employers receiving a wage increase of between 5 and 6 percent, depending on job grade, calculated on the wage table rates for each of the next three years. The 2021 increase would be backdated to July 1, 2021.
“After initially having been mandated to declare a dispute against employers within the scope of the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council, a strike certificate was obtained and a three-day secret ballot was held in order to confirm whether Uasa members wanted to exercise their right to strike.
“The results of the ballot did not warrant that notice of strike action should be served,” said Uasa’s Helen Ueckermann.