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New complication in Numsa strike

AN END to the metal and engineering strike is in sight with the parties due to meet at the weekend, though a new complication has arisen with employer groups at odds with each other over a possible settlement.

The tiff between the two employer organisations, the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) and National Employment Association of SA (Neasa), could end up in court. The latter has stuck to an 8% offer, arguing that Seifsa’s proposal of a 10% wage hike would squeeze small players out of the sector.

Neasa has vowed to challenge in court the extension of a possible agreement between the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and Seifsa to all parties in the sector bargaining council.

Parties briefed Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant on Thursday about the impasse that ensued this week after Numsa rejected the latest offer from Seifsa.

Labour officials are continuing with the facilitation of the talks between Numsa and Seifsa, which could see parties settle for a 10% pay hike. But differences over the duration of the deal persist.

Another sticking point is the union’s insistence on leaving out a clause in the agreement that would prevent them from bargaining at plant level on issues with cost implications that the national deal does not cover.

Seifsa and Numsa have been involved in negotiations, but in terms of the law all parties must return to the bargaining council for an agreement to be sealed.

Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council general secretary Thulani Mthiyane said on Thursday that an agreement by the largest trade union and the employer party, which employs the majority of workers in the industry, was sufficient for a motion to be carried. This was in terms of the voting rules in council’s plenary.

It is now highly likely that Numsa and Seifsa will reach an agreement between them, but Neasa will not sign.

Nonetheless, the labour minister is likely to extend the settlement to Neasa employers in terms of procedures set out in the Labour Relations Act.

Mr Mthiyane said the council would “like to see an inclusive agreement but if that is not possible, then the question of extension of the agreement will come under discussion”.

Neasa CEO Gerhard Papenfus said the body would challenge any agreement imposed on its members. “Without Neasa, no deal will fly .”

Crucial to the extension of any settlement is the issue of whether the parties in the council are sufficiently representative of employers and employees in the industry. Neasa has challenged this in court on two occasions, with a final judgment still outstanding.

The employer bodies will meet today to ensure that they enter the next round of talks with “one voice”.

Labour department acting deputy director-general Thembinkosi Mkalipi yesterday said the government continued to facilitate talks. “We are merely planting the seeds of a settlement — it is the council which will ultimately decide .”

Seifsa operations director Lucio Trentini said “unlocking” the issues around bargaining at plant level was a key issue that would allow the agreement to be signed. “Once a deal is struck at industry level, no party should be allowed to go back and negotiate around issues with cost implications .”

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said the union’s demand for a double-digit increase had not changed — whether it was over one year or in each of the next three years.

Further, the ability to bargain at plant level on issues not covered in the main agreement remained a “sticking issue”.

Source – BDlive