Wiseman Khuzwayo

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) had a militant socialist agenda and was clearly using the strike in the metals and engineering sector to promote it, the National Employers’ Association of SA (Neasa) said yesterday.

Gerhard Papenfus, the chief executive of Neasa, an employer body participating in the wage talks, was reacting to Irvin Jim, Numsa’s general secretary, who called Papenfus a “sick man” and “very backward” on Sunday for his approach to the wage talks.

Jim said because the employers in the metals and engineering sector had rejected its demands, Numsa was calling on its members to intensify the strike and might be left with no option but to call for targeted solidarity action in the other sectors in which the union operated.

Papenfus said Numsa had made it clear a month before the strike that industrial action would start on July 1.

“From the outset, Numsa demanded a double-digit increase. They’ve made this a mobilising slogan. The financial capacity of employers was never considered in making this demand, while Numsa made it an emotional issue.”

He said Neasa, just like Numsa, relied on a mandate from its members. Its mandated position was an across-the-board offer of 8 percent, a lower entry-level wage, and measures to create a more flexible dispensation, all aimed at making the industry more competitive and thereby stimulating job creation.

Jim said Numsa had rejected the revised offer made by employers after the strike started because it was an insult.

The union said it had held talks yesterday with the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) and had also rejected its final offer.

The union said Seifsa had said its mandate was that it would withdraw the offer of July 8 if Numsa rejected it. Regarding negotiations at plant level and labour broking, Numsa said Seifsa had said it would return for a mandate.

The employers want to secure a three-year agreement and have offered a 10 percent wage increase in the first year, 9.5 percent in the second and 9 percent in the third year.

Numsa also wants a ban on labour brokers in the engineering sector as has been the case in the automotive and tyre sector. It also wants a housing allowance.

Papenfus said Numsa was pursuing short-term political aspirations and in the process sacrificing sustainable economic growth, the rightful aspirations of the unemployed and even the real interests of its own members.

Meanwhile, a rift between Neasa and Seifsa has begun to show as the indefinite strike enters its third week today.

Seifsa said on Friday that it strongly condemned the propaganda embarked on by Neasa, whose growing desperation resulted in the association spreading a series of lies against the federation.

Kaizer Nyatsumba, Seifsa’s chief executive, said he dismissed with “the contempt that it deserves” Papenfus’s wild allegation in a press statement that Seifsa had betrayed the interests of small business.

“For quite some time, Papenfus has been making all sorts of allegations against a number of stakeholders, among them us. He appears to be absolutely desperate to attract attention to himself and his organisation, including through making wild and unsubstantiated claims against others.”