Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant met represantatives of AMCU, NACTU, NUM and Cosatu to OR Tambo International Airport's Intercontinental Hotel to discuss restoring stability in the mining industry. 030613 Picture: Boxer Ngwenya

Johannesburg -

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant on Tuesday congratulated parties in the metals sector for reaching an agreement, bringing the four-week strike to an end.

“I am happy that the parties have finally found each other. The challenge right now is for parties to waste no time but to start rebuilding the relationship,” Oliphant said in a statement.

Oliphant thanked the parties for providing leadership “under very difficult circumstances”.

Six unions in the metals and engineering sector signed a wage deal with most employers on Tuesday.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), Solidarity, the Chemical Energy Paper Printing Wood and Allied Workers Union (Ceppwawu), the Metal and Electrical Workers Union of South Africa (Mewusa), Uasa, and the South African Equity Workers Association (Saewa) all signed the wage agreement with employers.

But one of the employer bodies, the National Employers' Association of South Africa (Neasa) refused to sign the offer, saying it had been sidelined in the negotiation process, facilitated by the Labour Department.

As a result, Neasa, which has 22 members and employs about 70 000 workers, has vowed to continue with a lock-out of striking workers.

Over 200 000 Numsa members downed tools on July 1, demanding a salary increase of 12 percent, down from their pre-strike demand of 15 percent. They also demanded a R1 000 housing allowance, and a total ban on labour brokers.

After signing the agreement, Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim called on its members working night shifts to continue picketing outside Neasa plants.

According to the new wage deal, workers would get increases of between eight and 10 percent, depending on whether they were high or low earners.

Five of the seven employer parties, including the main employer body, the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (Seifsa), signed the deal. - Sapa