Picture: AFP PHOTO
Picture: AFP PHOTO

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) is set to go on strike after talks with employers in the engineering sector had deadlocked.

Numsa demands a 15% wage increase, while employers are offering one based on the minimum-wage rate. The union has also asked for a two-year agreement.

Numsa has applied for a strike certificate and expects to hear on July 15 whether it has been granted permission to down tools.

"The sticking point is the [employers'] proposal [that] they want new entrants who are coming to this sector to earn half of what the minimum rate is," said Phakamile Hlubi, the spokesperson for Numsa. "The minimum rate in engineering is R40 per hour. It's the lowest rate [in the engineering sector] ... workers need more than R40 per hour to survive on.

"But [it's] a low rate that workers in this country fought tooth and nail over," she said.

Numsa said it had warned the ANC of the disastrous consequences of the R20 minimum-wage proposal it had signed in February. Hlubi said the union could not accept workers doing the same work and earning different salaries.

Gerhard Papenfus, CEO of the National Employers' Association of South Africa (Neasa), said the engineering industry was the most expensive in the country in terms of wages, because of poor negotiations by employers. Neasa went into the negotiations with demands to make the industry sustainable and bring back growth, he said.

"I think [the strike] will happen towards the end of the month," he said. He added that Numsa might reach an agreement with another employers' association, but there was no chance it would reach an agreement with Neasa before the strike.

Hlubi said the length of the strike would depend on members.

- Additional reporting by Palesa Vuyolwethu Tshandu

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