The chief executive of the National Employers’ Association of SA (Neasa), Gerhard Papenfus, has written an open letter to the leadership of the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa), following a press release by Seifsa’s chief executive suggesting that Neasa is engaging in propagandist measures due to apparent desperation. The text of the letter follows.

Dear Seifsa leadership. I read your press release with extreme disappointment. I expected more from you. You accuse me of “making misleading claims” and “perpetuat(ing) blatant untruths”; but ironically, that is exactly what you are doing.

I have taken note of your remarks and have decided to deal with each and every statement that you have put forward. It is important that the industry knows who and what they are dealing with.

- The two things you are right about:

You say that we “rubbish” the settlement agreement Seifsa “reluctantly” entered into, the one you said will cause “massive job losses”; the agreement National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim said was a massive victory for the union. You’re right, we rubbish that agreement. How can we otherwise treat this agreement if it will accelerate the demise of the industry?

You also say that Neasa is desperate. Yes, we are; but for a completely different reason than that you have suggested. We are desperate on behalf of an industry. I cry inside when I see the damage the Seifsa/Numsa pact has done to this industry over many years. You, however, need to be desperate about something else: the number of employers which have had enough and now turn their back on you.

- Propaganda is aimed at anybody and everybody

You say Neasa “has been engaged in strident propaganda against anybody and everybody”. That is not true. My attack is aimed at Seifsa, Numsa and the metal and engineering industries bargaining council (MEIBC), the three of you.

By the way, the moment you give Neasa and small, medium and micro enterprises in the industry an undertaking that you will not extend your agreement to us, our attack will stop. Give us an undertaking that you will keep your destructive and selfish agreement applicable to your big employers, on which your negotiated settlement has no impact, and we will leave you in peace.

You attract this assault from us because you (a hopeless minority movement representing 15 percent of employers in the metal industry) somehow want to extend that agreement to the remaining 85 percent of employers in the industry. This is outrageous.

- Seifsa and Numsa negotiated behind Neasa’s back

I find it disturbing that you deny this fact. Apart from Seifsa and Numsa, who else was present during the fatal negotiations facilitated by the labour minister? Why else do you think we addressed the minister on this fundamental error? Are you suggesting that what I am saying is not true? If that is indeed the case, I have no other option but to doubt your integrity. Yes, we negotiated in the same caucus until you began your bilaterals with Numsa.

- Seifsa represents only big companies

In denying that, you claim 65 percent of Seifsa-affiliated firms are small companies. Are you suggesting that you acted in their interests when you negotiated this recent and previous agreements? Are you suggesting that your agenda is not driven by big business? Let your members be the judge of this.

- Our attacks on you reflect poorly on our integrity

Let the public, and not you, make that call. Again, do not even attempt, with the assistance of your socialist partner, Numsa, to extend this agreement to the rest of the industry. We will view any attempt in this regard as an act of hostility towards an already fragile industry when it, in your own words, will “cause massive job losses”. It’s your agreement; live with it and kindly divulge the information in respect of the number of retrenchment notices already issued by the few members you have left, failing which we will divulge that information. Your agreement is not our agreement.

- Seifsa has no role to play in the MEIBC

I stand by this. Seifsa is a self-proclaimed agent of employers’ organisations. Your involvement in this industry is the single most obvious cause for the crisis the industry finds itself in.

- The postponed arbitration in respect of the seats dispute is Neasa’s fault

Once again you are ill-advised. A copy of your attorneys’ letter requesting a postponement is available on request.

Gerhard Papenfus

Neasa Chief Executive