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No deal yet as NUMSA talks stumble

Cape Town – The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) will continue striking, despite regional branches accepting a government proposed wage offer, two union sources said on Friday.

The stoppage won’t end because the union rejected conditions relating to future pay negotiations.

“The strike will continue because we have problems with changing Section 37. They want to make the union weak and toothless,” one union source told Reuters.

Another source said Numsa was open to meeting with employers over the weekend to try and broker an end to the strike, which is crimping economic growth.

Numsa officials declined to comment, saying their official position would be articulated at a news conference on Sunday.

The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of SA (Seifsa) on Tuesday ”reluctantly” accepted a government-brokered deal that includes wage increases of 10% to low-level employees over the next three years.

However, its acceptance was conditional and it also issued a warning over heavy job losses.

Seifsa insisted on a tightening of the Section 37 clause that is meant to prevent unions “double-dipping”, or pressing for new demands at a factory or company level in spite of an existing industry-wide wage deal.

On Thursday, Numsa expressed fears that an amendment by employers to the new wage offer will result in retrenchments or restructuring in the next three years, according to a report by Reuters.

“The employers are causing trouble and making hasty demands,” Numsa deputy general secretary Karl Cloete told reporters in Johannesburg.

“They want to freeze history… Employers are hell-bent on not finding a speedy resolution.”

Over 200 000 Numsa members in the metal and engineering sector downed tools on July 1, demanding a salary increase of 12%, down from their pre-strike demand of 15%. They also demanded a R1 000 housing allowance and a total ban on labour brokers.

The stoppage has been marred by heavy intimidation and violence.

Source  - Reuters, Sapa