National Union of Metalworkers of SA members protest in Pretoria. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO
National Union of Metalworkers of SA members protest in Pretoria. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO

Labour analysts expect the newly formed South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) to make its mark when the 2017 collective bargaining season begins.

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), the federation’s biggest union, is set to begin negotiations in the metals and engineering sector in June with an opening demand of a 15% wage increase.

The analysts said Saftu would use Numsa as a vehicle to position itself against rival federation Cosatu’s unions, while the challenging socioeconomic situation in the country would also push labour to approach bargaining with greater zeal.

Labour analyst Andrew Levy said there was a high probability of a strike in the metals and engineering sector as a result.

"Numsa is the single, biggest breakaway in Cosatu and now they have a lot to prove. There’s a good chance we will have a strike in the metals bargaining council," said Levy.

Dale McKinley, who is also a labour analyst, said some political power play was inevitable as Saftu vied for members.

"If you look at the leadership of Saftu, Numsa is by far the most dominant.

"I would be surprised if politics doesn’t come into the equation and if the chaos in the ANC, South African Communist Party and Cosatu is not used as a political issue [for] ... potential mobilisation or recruitment for Saftu itself."

The National Employers Association of SA’s Gerhard Papenfus said that, unfortunately for Numsa, the difficult economic situation could mean there was little appetite for a strike among workers.

He warned that the 15% demand would not materialise and if Numsa kept pushing for a double-digit increase, it could come at the cost of jobs.

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