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The knives are out in SA’s metals and engineering sector. This stems from a bitter conflict that goes back to court-mediated arguments between parties to collective bargaining agreements under the auspices of the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC). The agreements include employer representatives for small, medium and large companies, trade unions and Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant. The conflict rages about whether the minister is allowed to extend such wage deals to nonsignatory employers even though they sit on the council. The council sets wages for many groups in manufacturing. It also underscores the powerful roles played by unions and large employers in the economy. Now things have become more complicated. Trade union Solidarity says a possible strike in the metals and engineering industry might be the end of the bargaining council. This comes after wage negotiations in the council recently came to a standstill. Thereafter, the union asked the Labour ...

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