Pictures: SUNDAY TIMES
Pictures: SUNDAY TIMES

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) is threatening to take its members in the engineering sector out on strike over a wage dispute unless employers make an acceptable offer.

"Once we have satisfied that we have done everything, we might be left with no option but to issue the 48-hour notice for a legal protected strike," the union’s general secretary Irvin Jim said in a statement on Tuesday.

Negotiations deadlocked on June 15 and a dispute was declared as Numsa believed the employers’ offer would result in a deterioration in the living and working conditions of its members. After four dispute meetings, no agreement was reached.

If a strike did take place, it would affect foundries as well as the electronics and telecommunications, and plastic and fabrication industries.

Also affected would be the automotive components sector as well as gate and fence, and construction and engineering companies.

"If the strike commences, ongoing work at Medupi, Kusile and Ingqurha will be delayed," Jim warned.

Numsa is demanding a 15% wage increase across the board based on the actual rate workers are earning, not on the minimum rate.

A 15% wage increase would translate into a R6 per hour increase for lowest-paid members. Numsa wants the agreement to be backdated, effective July 1 2017.

The union also wants to conclude a two-year agreement and for the current agreement to be extended except in relation to wages. It also wants the agreement extended to employers who are not party to it.

Employers have offered a 5.3% increase on actual wages and 5.5% increase on the minimum rate of pay. For the second and third year of the agreement, employers are offering wage increase of 4% if the consumer price index (CPI) is less than 4% or a maximum of 8% if the CPI is higher than 8%.

Jim said a major area of disagreement was that employers wanted to implement a minimum rate of R20 per hour for new entrants to the sector, when the current minimum was R40.

"Employers are emboldened by the ANC’s plans to impose a national minimum wage (NMW) of R20 per hour next year. This is precisely why Numsa rejected the national minimum wage. We knew it would cause chaos in the engineering sector by introducing and legalising slave wages," he said.

Numsa is demanding a 15% wage increase across the board based on the actual rate workers are earning, not on the minimum rate.

Other proposals put on the table by employers were plans to introduce area rates where workers in outlying areas would earn 10% less than workers in urban areas.

There is also a plan to reduce the current four-week leave entitlement for workers who have worked for a company for four years or more to three weeks

Another plan is to pay out bonuses based on the actual shifts worked, which Jim said would mean that workers who did not work all their shifts due to authorised leave, for example, sick or maternity leave would forfeit their bonuses.

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