FOR QUITE some time now, the National Employers’ Association of SA (Neasa) has been engaged in strident propaganda aimed at anybody and everybody, including the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa), following the signing of the settlement agreement that ended the national strike in the sector two weeks ago.

This strident propaganda was nothing more than a sign of Neasa’s growing desperation, Seifsa chief executive Kaizer Nyatsumba said.

Responding to yet another so-called open letter from Neasa addressed to the “Seifsa leadership”, Nyatsumba dismissed “with the utter contempt that they deserve” the series of misleading claims made by Neasa.

Two such fallacious claims are that the settlement agreement signed on July 29 was “negotiated with Numsa [the National Union of Metalworkers of SA] behind Neasa’s back” and that Seifsa represents mostly large companies.

“It is absolutely baffling that an organisation with any ounce of self respect would perpetuate blatant untruths in an effort to market itself and to rubbish a settlement agreement reached within the metal and engineering industries bargaining council (MEIBC). Such action shows total desperation and reflects poorly on the organisation’s integrity,” he said.

The truth, Nyatsumba said, remained that:

n All parties to the MEIBC were involved in the negotiations from the time when they started in March until when an agreement was eventually reached. Neasa was one of those parties and had an opportunity to articulate its views throughout the process.

n While there are big companies in some of the associations affiliated to Seifsa, the fact remains that the overwhelming majority (up to 63 percent) of the companies that Seifsa represents are small, each employing fewer than 50 people.

Nyatsumba said that Neasa’s claim that Seifsa had no role to play in the affairs of the MEIBC was laughable.

“As anybody who understands the history of the bargaining council will know, Seifsa was formed in 1943 by the employer associations that are its members, with its mandate from the beginning being to represent the associations in wage negotiations. Unlike Neasa, Seifsa was a founding party to the bargaining council in 1944 and has been an active participant in its affairs since then,” he said.

He said that while Seifsa would have preferred a different outcome to the negotiations, the fact remained that “we do not negotiate with ourselves, and that is something that Neasa has yet to accept”.

Nyatsumba said that a settlement was reached through negotiations, and not through shouting at everybody from the rooftop and desperately seeking to impose one’s wishes on those with whom one negotiated.

Nyatsumba added: “As Neasa chief executive Gerhard Papenfus can attest, we at Seifsa worked closely with him and his team, in the form of a joint employer caucus, throughout the negotiations. We, too, wanted a wage settlement in the region of 8 percent in order to save jobs in the sector and to give the sector an opportunity to be internationally competitive, but the unions were vehemently opposed to that proposed percentage.

“Our members could have chosen to be dogmatic, thus leaving our economy to bleed indefinitely as a consequence of an ongoing strike. Fortunately, they were very mature in their approach and put the country’s interests first.”

He added that Neasa’s claims regarding the number of employers that it allegedly represented and, by extension, the number of people that they employed were a subject of an arbitration process that had long been stalled by that organisation.

“That arbitration process has now been scheduled for the last week of October. We hope that Neasa will ensure that it is finalised this time,” Nyatsumba said.