Irvin Jim is the general-secretary of Numsa. File picture: Gcina Ndwalane/ANA Pictures

Johannesburg - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) on Tuesday slammed "intransigent" employers in the engineering sector and warned of a "total shutdown" in the industry.

This comes after Numsa declared a dispute with employers in the engineering sector following deadlock in wage negotiations last month. 

Speaking at a media briefing in Johannesburg, Numsa general-secretary Irvin Jim said after four dispute meetings the union failed to reach any agreement with employers in the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council. 

"It is quite evident that the employers are imposing a strike onto us. Employers have forced us into this undesirable position because of the absurd offer which they have placed on the table. As Numsa, the strike was never on our agenda, purely because our core demands are affordable," Jim said.  

"We are calling on every concerned stakeholder to knock sense to the intransigent group of employers that have been frustrating the process of negotiations, or else we will shut down the entire economy on a scale which this country has never seen before."

Numsa is demanding a 15 percent wage increase across the board based on the actual rate workers are earning, not on the new minimum rate. The increases must be backdated to 1 July,  

But employers propose, among other things, a three-year wage agreement offering of 5.3 percent wage hike across the board for the first year of the agreement based on the minimum rate, and not the actual rate that workers are earning.

The metal and engineering sector wage agreement lapsed at the end of June. 

If the strike goes ahead, key sectors that  will be heavily affected include foundries, electronics and telecommunications, plastic and fabrication industries, machinery and equipment, electrical engineering, basic metals, heavy and light engineering as well as construction engineering companies.

Companies which supply critical parts to the auto industry, including Auto Industrial, Bell Equipment, CBI, Union Carriage and Wagon, Dorbyl, Marley Pipe System and Dana Spicer Axle among others, are could also be affected by the strike.. 

Ongoing work at Eskom power stations Medupi, Kusile and Ingqurha, might as a result incur further delays.

Jim said employers in the metals and engineering industry would have to take full responsibility for the repercussions that this strike will have on the economy as a result of their intransigence.

"Numsa has resolved to embark on a rolling mobilisation of our members to make them ready for any eventuality and as we mobilise our members, we will dedicate time to engage employers further demanding that they must move from the current position, and make an offer that can settle this round of negotiations," Jim said. 

"Once we have satisfied that we have done everything we might be left with no option but to issue the 48-hour notice for a legally protected strike."