Numsa is currently involved in negotiations with various groups in the vehicle sector, in the Automobile Manufacturers Employers Organisation, the Retail Motor Industry Organisation and the New Tyre Manufacturing Employers' Association. File picture: Thomas Peter

Johannesburg - The sudden and unexpected death of National Union of Metalworker of SA (Numsa) chief negotiator Stephen Nhlapho could disrupt and delay negotiations taking place with several key sectors of the economy.

These include separate negotiations currently taking place between Numsa and the Automobile Manufacturers Employers Organisation (Ameo), the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) and the New Tyre Manufacturing Employers’ Association.

RMI chief executive Jakkie Olivier on Friday conveyed his and the organisation’s condolences to Nhlapho’s family and Numsa and confirmed the RMI had agreed to a request from the union to cancel of the second Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) mediation meeting that was scheduled to take place tomorrow.

The mediation meetings follow Numsa last month declaring a dispute in negotiations for a new agreement for the retail motor industry and a subsequent dispute meeting failing to resolve the dispute but the parties agreeing to CCMA mediation.

Work goes on

However, Patrick Craven, Numsa’s acting spokesman, said on Friday he did not think Nhlapho’s death would disrupt or delay the negotiations taking place with employer organisations in various economic sectors.

Craven said obviously there would be a memorial service and funeral for Nhlapho but “the work goes on”.

“Talks are scheduled to continue and Numsa will try and reach negotiated settlements that meet the needs of our members,” he said.

Attempts to get comment from Ameo were unsuccessful.

Numsa said last week it had learned with shock and sorrow about the sudden and untimely passing of Nhlapho on August 10 “at the age of just 52”.

“Stephen was the union’s chief negotiator and co-ordinator of collective bargaining and worked for Numsa throughout his working life, plus a spell for the International Metalworkers Federation.

“He was never prepared to compromise in his determination to defend and advance workers’ rights. All our hearts are bleeding at the death of a dedicated revolutionary and cadre who offered his entire adult life to the service of workers and the broader working class at large,” Numsa said.

Olivier said very little progress had been made during the first mediation meeting with the CCMA, Numsa and the RMI last week and there was no movement by any of the parties on the core issues that led to the dispute.

These core issues are Numsa’s demand for a mega bargaining council, comprising the vehicle manufacturers, oil refineries and retail motor industry, and a one-year rather than a three-year agreement.

Olivier said the RMI had asked Numsa to reconsider its position and be more accommodating and for both labour and employers to get a re-mandate from their members and prepare for what could be the final mediation session later this month.

He added that mediation was not cast in concrete and depending on the progress, the parties always had the flexibility to agree to another meeting if needed.

But Olivier said the facilitator could issue a certificate of non resolution if it believed the parties were so far apart that there was no likelihood of a resolution of the dispute.

This would allow Numsa to give employers in the retail motor industry 48 hours notice of strike action.

In a reference to negotiations taking place between Numsa and Ameo, Olivier said the RMI was concerned that the apparent lack of progress in the RMI’s negotiations with Numsa had been influenced by negotiations taking place with Numsa in other forums.

Talks are scheduled to continue and Numsa will try and reach negotiated settlements.