Irvin Jim. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO
Irvin Jim. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), the country's largest trade union, has signed a wage agreement with vehicle sector employers, following months of intense negotiations.

On Friday, Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim announced that the parties had signed a three-year wage agreement of 9% across the board for year one, and 7% for year two and year three, or CPI, whichever was greater. 

The union and the Automobile Manufacturers Employers Organisation (Ameo) also agreed that the transport allowance be increased from R1,540 to R2,500 in the first year, which is a half of the R5,000 Numsa had initially demanded. The allowance will increase by 7% or CPI for year two and three.

Numsa also managed to squeeze out a once-off gratuity payment of R7,500 for its more than 450,000 members working at car manufacturers including Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Ford, Isuzu, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen. 

The 9% wage agreement is less than the 20% increase Numsa had initially demanded when it tabled its wide-ranging demands to employers in June, which included morning, afternoon and night allowances of 10%, 20% and 30%, respectively.

However, the union did stress at the time that it was open to trade-offs from employers and to toning down some of its demands.

The industry has been dogged by poor vehicle sales, among other issues, and is considering other African countries for export opportunities. According to figures released by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa), the demand for cars and commercial vehicles in August fell 5.1% from a year earlier.

Naamsa said that of the total reported industry sales of 45,537 vehicles, an estimated 81.6% represented dealer sales, 12.6% represented sales to the vehicle rental industry, 3.9% to industry corporate fleets and 1.9% to the government.

Jim said Numsa and Ameo had agreed to establish two focus groups for the purpose of finalising the recommendations and proposals for the implementation of an industry medical aid, and the skills-based grading framework.

The purpose of this, he said, was to establish an appropriate progression of employees from skill level 4 to 5 and for team leaders/toolsetters to progress to skill level 6.

“Progress in this regard will be reported to plenary in October and further engagements will continue on dates agreed,” said Jim, who acknowledged the role played by the union's negotiators.

“Our negotiation team has worked tirelessly to get us to this point of the talks and we are grateful to them for their hard work.”

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za