The jury is out on whether the metal sector can avert labour unrest after the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) on Thursday blamed metal industry employers for provoking its members to strike.

In a scathing statement on Friday, Numsa said employers had failed to meet its demand for a double digit wage increase during the second day of wage talks held on Thursday.

“Based on this proposal, we are convinced that employers are indeed provoking a deadlock in order to justify a strike. Employers clearly do not want industrial peace in the engineering sector, they want it to be unstable,” Numsa said.

Numsa said employers had offered a three-year agreement, when it demanded a two-year agreement.

Employers proposed a 5.3percent wage increase across the board for the first year of the agreement, based on the minimum rate, and not the actual rate that workers earned.

If the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the second and third year of the agreement was below 4percent, then they were offering an increase of 4percent, employers said.

They also said that if CPI for the second and third year of the agreement was above 8percent, then they were offering an increase of 8percent.

However, Numsa has demanded a 15percent wage increase across the board, based on the actual rate that a worker is earning, and not on the minimum rate.

“We are horrified that employers want trade unions to help them to violate the basic principles of equal pay for work of equal value by offering new entrants to the sector only half of what they deserve,” said Numsa. "To add insult to injury, employers have the nerve to demand that workers give them amnesty for breaking the law and paying workers less than what they are legally obliged to pay! They are insulting us by demanding that we endorse their criminal behaviour by agreeing to such an outrageous proposal,” said Numsa.

The next meeting between Numsa and employers will be meeting with the employers on Thursday (June 15).