File picture: Thomas Peter

Johannesburg - The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) has dropped two demands that were a major stumbling block to a new wage agreement with the retail motor industry.

These were its demands for a one-year agreement rather than a three-year agreement and for a mega bargaining council for the motor industry.

Irvin Jim, Numsa’s general secretary, confirmed yesterday shortly before negotiations resumed with the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) that these demands would not be a stumbling block to reaching an agreement.

The RMI indicated that it totally rejected proposals for the retail motor industry to become part of a mega bargaining council because it would put the survival of its members at risk.

Critical stage

Jim said the negotiations with the retail motor industry had reached “a critical stage” because the previous agreement had expired and Numsa members were beginning to panic.

He confirmed that Numsa had yesterday signed a new three-year agreement reached with the Automobile Manufacturers Employers Organisation (Ameo), which represents the seven locally-based vehicle manufacturers.

Jim said now that that sector had settled, the retail motor sector would be forced to decide if it wanted to take the entire industry into a strike, adding that the RMI had to date made offers that amounted to “absolutely nothing”.

“We go back to negotiations now and they now know they are the centre of focus and have to come to the party and move in the negotiations.

“If they want a three-year agreement, they must make offers on that. We will look at that on the basis of the quantum of the package and take a decision,” he said.

Jim said Numsa would continue a dialogue about the future of collective bargaining with the vehicle manufacturers and retail motor industry during the next three years.

He said the new three-year agreement reached with Ameo was secured without a strike and would result in a total wage increase for vehicle workers of about 35 percent over the three-year period.

The agreement includes a wage increase of 10 percent in the first year of the agreement and 8 percent wage hikes in the following two years, increases to the transport and shift allowances for workers, and a once-off housing subsidy of R5 000 and a monthly housing subsidy of R500 a month.

Jim stressed the once-off housing subsidy was only to first-time home buyers and the R500 a month subsidy to workers paying off a home. “They are not subsidising wages but a house.” Jim added that housing issues had stalled the negotiations with Ameo and a new housing department would be established at all vehicle firms to address housing problems.

He said most vehicle workers were in the gap market where banks were not running to give them home loans and the union would be looking for a solution to this problem.

The gap market comprises prospective homeowners who earn too much to qualify for a housing subsidy or Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) house from the government, but earn insufficient to qualify for a conventional home loan.

Jim said a commitment made during talks with Ameo was that a meeting would be convened at plant level with banks and the government to address housing issues.

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