The rand tripped slightly by 0.4 percent to R10.7176 against the dollar before lunchtime yesterday on the news that the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) had withdrawn its final wage offer to the striking workers in the metals and engineering sector. At 5pm the rand was bid at R10.7110 to the dollar.

The federation said the industry picketing rules were finalised between all the parties yesterday at a facilitated session involving the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, a clear indication that the parties were digging in for a protracted strike, now in its third week.

Seifsa said all of the issues that were important for employers had been retained in the final version.

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) said it had rejected Seifsa’s final offer on Monday and the employer body had in turn said that its mandate was that should the union not accept the settlement of July 8, then the offer was withdrawn.

Numsa said, however, that Seifsa made an undertaking to go back to its constituents for a mandate on section 37 and labour broking. It said it was awaiting feedback from Seifsa while the union’s national strike committee was to be convened yesterday. However, Seifsa said that the claim by Numsa was patently untrue.

Kaizer Nyatsumba, the chief executive of Seifsa, said that the federation had made a number of important concessions in the negotiations but the federation’s position on both section 37 of the main agreement and labour brokers had never once changed.

“We have indicated all along that we would not be able to sign any agreement that did not protect employers from the threat of double dipping, with matters which impact on the total cost of employment negotiated both at national level through collective bargaining and subsequently at plant level,” he said. “It remains critically important for us that we reach a mutually acceptable agreement on section 37 of the main agreement.”

He said Seifsa had also indicated throughout the negotiations that labour brokers were a matter for labour to raise with the government, and not with employers.

Nyatsumba said the federation had not promised to get back to the union with a new offer. Instead, the federation had exhausted its mandate.

He said Seifsa explained the final offer made last week – which was intended to end the strike and to see employees back at work – failed to accomplish this goal and had since been withdrawn.

Seifsa’s conditional offer was a three-year agreement, with a raise of 10 percent in the first year, 9.5 percent in the second year, and 9 percent in the final year. – Wiseman Khuzwayo