Numsa agrees to sign on the doted line on a month long strike.Numsa Secretary General Irvin Jim briefed the media on their agreement. photo by Simphiwe Mbokazi

The four-week strike by 220 000 metals and engineering workers, which was at times marred by violence, was called off late yesterday afternoon by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa).

Solidarity also said it would accept the three-year agreement offered by employer body the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa).

Karl Cloete, the deputy general secretary of Numsa, said the agreement would be signed at 2pm today.

The deal was brokered by the Department of Labour.

Irvin Jim, the general secretary of Numsa, said the final settlement included 10 percent wage increases for the lowest paid employees each year for the next three years.

Cloete said the bulk of the union’s membership was in grade H, the lowest paid in the sector. He said those in grade A, who were the highest paid and included artisans, would receive increases of 8 percent every year for three years.

Marius Croucamp, the head of industry at Solidarity, said the salary increases ranged from 8 percent to 10 percent in year one, 7.5 percent to 10 percent in year two, and 7 percent to 10 percent in year three.

The consumer inflation rate was 6.6 percent last month.

Numsa fought for a double-digit increase across the board.

However, Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus warned on Friday that double-digit wage increases were causing inflationary pressures.

The bank’s monetary policy committee remained concerned about the upside risks to the inflation outlook, particularly the increased risk of a wage price spiral in the context of the current difficult labour relations environment, with the danger of double-digit wage settlements becoming the economy-wide norm.

Jim said Numsa had succeeded in negotiating section 37 of the agreement, also known as the “peace clause”, which the union was confident was legally sound and was thus not disadvantageous to Numsa.

Section 37 prevents “double dipping”, which means that what has been negotiated at the bargaining council cannot be renegotiated at plant level.

Jim said all issues not covered by section 37 can be raised at plant level.

The final settlement will drive the National Employers Association of SA (Neasa) into a spin. The rival employer body had said that the offer was unacceptable to its members because they could not afford such big increases. It offered 8 percent raises and sought a reduced entry-level wage.

Neasa successfully challenged the outgoing agreement at the Labour Court in December 2012, which gave Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant four months to apply her mind in extending that agreement to non-parties.

The matter returned to court on July 2, when judgment was reserved.

Neasa is likely to challenge the agreement if Oliphant extends it to non-parties.

Jim urged all the union’s members to report for work today and also called on all the employers to allow workers who might not have received the message to report for duty on Wednesday.

He said a number of meetings had been held across the country yesterday to allow members, the owners of any settlement, to deliberate on the recommendations of Numsa’s special national executive committee held on Sunday.

Jim said the agreement contained the commitment that employees engaged by labour brokers would continue to be entitled to all the terms and conditions contained in the main agreement. To enforce this, the metal and engineering industries bargaining council would employ labour broker compliance officers to act on complaints of alleged abuse and non-compliance.

Kaizer Nyatsumba, the chief executive of Seifsa, welcomed the end of the strike, saying it was a relief it was over.

He said although Seifsa’s preferred wording of section 37 was not accepted by Numsa, the federation’s council was satisfied that a compromise wording reached over the weekend would protect companies from two-tier bargaining.

Reuters reported that General Motors South Africa said it would resume full production today after the strike at components suppliers ended. - Business Report