Roy Cokayne

MANY building projects, particularly those requiring steel and aluminium products, could be delayed by a further eight weeks or more because of the strike by about 220 000 workers in the metals and engineering industry.

Tumi Dlamini, the chief executive of Master Builders SA, said yesterday that many contractors now realised that the shortage of building materials caused by the strike would delay the completion of current projects by eight weeks from the date of the end of the industrial action.

Dlamini said this meant that many contractors would not meet the contract deadlines for the completion of projects they were currently working on and would also be unable to take on or commence work on new projects.

“Most projects, especially those that need supplies of steel and aluminium, will be delayed. The shortage of steel [caused by the strike] could very well extend beyond eight weeks,” she said.

Master Builders SA warned last week that building material shortages caused by the disruption to production from the strike that commenced on July 1 was threatening to delay projects and placing the survival of marginal smaller contractors at risk.

It also emerged that the strike could further delay the completion of Eskom’s Medupi power station project.

Ed Jardim, the group communications executive at Murray & Roberts, said last week that the group’s mechanical contract at Medupi was 100 percent exposed to the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) strike and its workers were currently not working.

Master Builders SA said work had slowed down substantially on building sites as its members were deprived of essential building components, such as steel plates, framework, pipes, windows and doors or any other metal component produced by factories affected by the strike.

The strike has also disrupted or halted production at five of the seven vehicle manufacturing plants in the country because of a shortage of component supplies.

Only Mercedes-Benz South Africa and Volkswagen South Africa are still producing normally, while BMW South Africa is operating two of its normal three production shifts.

There were indications yesterday that an end to the strike might be in sight.

The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) said yesterday that it had reluctantly conditionally accepted Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant’s proposal to offer wage increases of 10 percent annually to low-level employees in the metals and engineering sector over three years.

However, Seifsa stressed that its acceptance of this proposal was conditional on a resolution of section 37, relating to the scope of bargaining council agreements, and the proposal’s acceptance by the unions no later than Friday.

Seifsa chief executive Kaizer Nyatsumba said the federation wanted the main agreement of the metal and engineering industries bargaining council (MEIBC) to be tightened up to indicate that the MEIBC was the sole forum for negotiating matters contained in the main agreement and those related to the cost of employment.

“During the currency of the agreement, no matter contained in the agreement or which may impact on the cost of employment may be an issue in dispute for the purposes of a strike or lock-out or any conduct in contemplation of a strike or lock-out.

“Seifsa and its member associations are proponents of collective bargaining and remain implacably opposed to double dipping through two-tier bargaining,” he said.

Numsa was scheduled to hold a special national executive committee meeting late yesterday to discuss the latest wage settlement proposal and solicit a fresh mandate from union members.