Numsa members march through the streets of Durban during a wage protest. File picture: Reuters

Lockouts in the metals and engineering sector were widespread and an estimated 200 companies had implemented them, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) said yesterday.

Stephen Nhlapo, the union’s national sector co-ordinator for basic metals and energy, said yesterday that Numsa had compiled reports of 30 lockouts in KwaZulu-Natal, 30 in Ekurhuleni and 34 in the Western Cape.

“This is in just three regions out of nine. We therefore estimate there may well be as many as 200 lockouts. Some employers do not say they are lockouts but simply tell the workers to return on Monday,” Nhlapo said.

The National Employers Association of SA (Neasa) advised its member companies to implement lockouts of striking workers after it said it had been sidelined in the wage settlement to end the four-week strike in the sector.

The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) signed a three-year agreement with Numsa and five other unions that will increase wages for the lowest paid by 10 percent each year in that period.

Neasa did not sign the wage agreement, saying the increases were unaffordable and would lead to job losses.

It offered a wage increase of 8 percent across the board.

Numsa has threatened to picket at firms that implemented lockouts.

Gerhard Papenfus, the chief executive of Neasa, said yesterday that he did not want to reveal how many Neasa members had effected lockouts.

“All I can say is that 50 percent of our members who had responded said they had implemented the lockout. It is completely voluntary.

“I don’t want to make too much of it. We are doing it for the good of the industry, not to pick a fight,” he said.

Cosatu in the Western Cape has threatened to close down firms that effect the lockout, which it said was a ploy to force workers to accept slave wages.

Tony Ehrenreich, the provincial secretary, said Cosatu condemned Neasa for wanting companies to maintain the generational advantages of those who had benefited from apartheid.

“For those companies, both black and white, who think they can publicly show support for continued slave wages, Cosatu will do all that it can to close them down. There are many other companies that can fill the orders that these exploiters presently hold and we will negotiate to get our members moved to the new plants with the work orders that are going there,” he said.

Ehrenreich said Cosatu would call for boycotts of those companies in the Western Cape that dared to lock out the federation’s members. It would also focus on the directors’ personal assets and connections.

He said: “The arrogance of those companies, who think they can advance a DA agenda in the Western Cape of undermining workers’ rights, will be met with the full might of Cosatu.” - Business Report