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The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) has issued a statement saying it fully supports the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), in its negotiations for a new wage agreement in the engineering sector. NUMSA is preparing for mass action and what it has described as “the mother of all battles” in the ongoing wage negotiations.

Strikes headed for engineering sectorBusiness Day reports that NUMSA general secretary Irvin Jim urged regional secretaries to undertake a “fighting campaign involving every factory to defend collective bargaining and improve workers’ wages”. The National Employers Association of SA has said it is aware that the union is intending to strike in the metals sector, adding that it believed NUMSA’s approach was targeted at “winning negotiations through mass protest and not negotiations”.

The Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council’s (MEIBC's) management committee subsequently announced that it will appoint a subcommittee to attempt to resolve the disputed issues. To resolve the impasse, the subcommittee will meet under the facilitation of a senior Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) commissioner. The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFA) will receive a comprehensive report on developments to date. It will then review and, if necessary, revise its mandate going into the next phase of the negotiations.

The biggest sticking point is around the issue of the minimum wage. The current minimum wage is R40 per hour, but employers have proposed cutting entry level salaries by half. SAFTU has called this a “life-and-death battle”.

“If employers get away with [that], they will have set a dangerous precedent which their colleagues in other sectors are sure to be quick to copy. This is because whereas in the recent past, wage negotiations focused on the size of the percentage increase in workers' wages and benefits. In these talks the discussion is the other way round - the employers are trying to impose wage decreases which will see new workers in the sector earning only half of the current minimum rate,” the union said.

Image credit: Copyright: kzenon / 123RF Stock Photo

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