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Employer organisations in the metal and engineering sector are negotiating directly with workers after failing to reach agreement with unions on wages, while trade unions have threatened industrial action. Wage negotiations started on June 7, but have collapsed and parties have declared disputes at the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council. Unions reject a 5.4% wage offer and have instead demanded increases of 10%-12%. Employer bodies will engage workers in a bid to halt industrial action, which they all agree would be detrimental to the distressed steel sector. The sector shed 25.000 jobs in 2016 and has experienced the closure of 500 businesses. The decision not to continue negotiating collectively exposes the disjuncture between big businesses and small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) — a problem that has persisted in the industry for years. The National Employers’ Association of SA (Neasa), which represents SMMEs, has in the past successfully challenged wage ...

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