Employers tell metalworkers to go home

Employers tell metalworkers to go home

2014-06-27 20:04

Johannesburg - The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of SA (Seifsa) on Friday served notice of a lockout at its 23 members' premises, trade union Solidarity said.

"This lockout notice served by Seifsa... means that the employer organisation itself has now brought the industry to a halt, and with it a great deal of harm to its members and the economy in general," it said in a statement.

Seifsa is the largest of the three employers' organisations in the metal and engineering industries' bargaining council.

A deadlock in the negotiations led to a notice of strike action from majority union the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood, and Allied Workers' Union (Ceppwawu), and the General Industries Workers' Union of SA (Giwusa).

On Thursday, Numsa general secretary Karl Cloete said the union's 220 000 members in the sector would go on an indefinite strike from Tuesday.

A strike in the metal and engineering industries would have a "domino effect" as the metal and engineering companies supplied services and goods which almost all other major industries in the country relied on, he said.

The union's demands include a one-year wage agreement with a 12% wage increase.

Employers have tabled a three-year wage settlement offer of between seven and eight percent for different levels of workers in the first year, and CPI-linked increases for 2015 and 2016.

Manager of the metal and specialist division of the United Association of SA (Uasa) Johan van Niekerk explained that employers could use lockouts for the purpose of putting pressure on unions to accept an offer.

"In a lockout, they tell the employees to go home. Because of the no-work, no-pay principle, it forces employees to put pressure on us [unions] to accept the employers' offer."

Solidarity general secretary Gideon du Plessis said the union's 22 000 members in the industries would be prohibited from working, despite having not intended to strike.

He described Seifsa's decision to bar workers affiliated to non-striking unions from working as "strong-arm tactics", disrespectful of collective bargaining and all parties who wanted to keep workplaces functional and operational.

"Solidarity calls upon all Seifsa members to ignore the lockout notice issued by their employer organisation and allow their loyal employees to continue with production to avoid a situation where the country can go into a recession...

"Solidarity also calls upon Seifsa members to re-consider their membership with an employers organisation that does not have the best interest of the industry at heart."

Since the lockout notice was served, Solidarity had been inundated by messages from Seifsa members seeking to distance themselves from Seifsa, who wanted to work with the union away from the employers' body so work could continue.

"We believe that Seifsa's leadership does not have a proper mandate for its current actions and that a confidential ballot will expose this state of affairs."

In a statement on Friday, Seifsa dismissed Solidarity's claims that its members were not in full support of the lockout as "spurious".

Seifsa CEO Kaizer Nyatsumba said the lockout notice was fully mandated by the organisation's council, comprising chairpersons of all employer associations belonging to Seifsa at a special meeting on Monday.

The Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council's (MEIBC) constitution allowed for any party "to pursue whatever means are available in the Labour Relations Act to process that dispute".

This was provided in the event that the dispute was not settled within 30 days of being referred to the MEIBC and no process to resolve it had been agreed to.

Du Plessis claimed that MEIBC head Thulani Mthiyane had issued a final deadlock certificate prematurely.

"This certificate now gives Numsa and Seifsa the opportunity to strike instead of engaging in further negotiations while production continues."

Solidarity had written a letter to the other unions and the employer organisations asking for an extension of the dispute round of negotiations for 21 days in an attempt to avoid a strike.

The unions have dropped their increase demand to 12%.

Employers have submitted their own list of demands, including one that pay for entry-level workers be halved.

Van Niekerk said this would mean that current entry-level workers would earn twice as much as anyone employed in the same position after such a deal was signed.

"The motivation of the employers that this will stimulate youth employment in the industry is a dream boat that will never sail.

"To us, it merely means the exploitation of the youth and it can be predicted that if they succeed, it will not take long for the salary levels of all employees to be pushed down to lower levels..."

  • Ronald Gibson - 2014-06-27 20:18

    So it is ok for the workers unions to declare a dispute and the workers to strike, but not so ok if the companies and owners to do the same? And here I thought we were a country of equal rights. Oh, I forgot. Justice, equality, racism, all those magnificent things guaranteed by our constitution is only applicable to some in SA.

      Ronald Gibson - 2014-06-27 20:20

      Should be "non racist", sorry.

      W.g. Morgan - 2014-06-27 20:31

      AA based on race = racism

      Karen Glautier - 2014-06-27 21:00

      Numsa once more.... They had the decision taken away from them, now they name call. Serves them right!

      Deon Aucamp - 2014-06-27 21:11

      Ronald stick to your day job because you are clueless on this matter. These workers want to work and negotiate, but the employers want to lock them out. With your brains you must be an employer.

      Ike Jakson - 2014-06-28 03:39

      Deon, I think you owe Donald an apology. Your reaction was unfair and your statements unwarranted.

      Deon Aucamp - 2014-06-28 09:12

      Ike you are right and I do apoligise and it was uncalled for. The jist of the dispute is that Seifsa wants to close down all business operations in the industry with a lock-out notice, and the non-striking unions oppose it to keep the businesses going whilst negotiations continue. That is the bizarre irony that unions fight for operations to continue and Seifsa representing employers fight for the closure of operations according to the article.

      Ike Jakson - 2014-06-28 10:17

      Deon, it is good to hear from you. I got a little hot under the collar from the threat by the Union warning employers not to bring in scab workers as that would be “inviting violent reaction” from the strikers. That is why I defended Donald when he had pointed at the hypocrisy of the system. Go well, friend.

      Ronald Gibson - 2014-06-28 11:13

      Ike, thanks for the backup. Deon, yes, I WAS an employer with 36 employees that were paid twice the going labour rate as they were manufacturing medically related products. Some people depend on these products for their quality of life, the reason for me paying well above the labour rate to prevent strikes for salaries to ensure continuity, but this was ignored by the relevant unions and workers. Oh, and when I had a day job I was actually a union shop steward, so understand the moral, ethical and economic motivation for striking as well as the behind the scenes skulduggery in union management that puts the true concerns of the workers way down the list of importance.

      Deon Aucamp - 2014-06-28 13:49

      Thank you for the clarity Ronald and point taken.

  • Paige Turner - 2014-06-27 20:35

    Hurrrray, at last the treat of strike has been countered by the lockout by Seifsa. Numsa said: "We will bring industry to a halt." Well, somebody else got there first and stole Numsa's thunder.

  • George Basset - 2014-06-27 21:00


      Su West - 2014-06-28 10:56

      But George..... no need to shout.... this is the other side of a union striking coin. How is it what is good for the goose is NOT good for the gander.... Maybe change demands for requests, maybe try and sit down and reason with each other with a little give and take. My thoughts are that the companies locking out their workers actually have no work on hand in their order books and it suits them down to the ground to lock out their staff and not pay them. Either way we all loose if this gets out of hand.

      Roger Pacey - 2014-06-29 13:13

      Laws like the Labour Relations Act and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act are the products of post-1994 governments. Labour had a major hand in their drafting and passage through Parliament. I don't see how they can reasonably be denounced as imperialist.

  • Celeste Terblanche - 2014-06-27 21:35

    This is great! Why should unions and labour be the only ones with demands! When is government going to start protecting the economy? This government is gutless.

  • Erna Westdyk - 2014-06-27 22:28

    So its OK for the unions to decide when the employees can work or not, but employers may not do it. Something wrong with that I think - good for the employers!

      Ike Jakson - 2014-06-28 03:11

      I must say this sounds rather neat. I mean, if a guy or a group of them start a business and sign at the bank, bonding their homes and everything they own as security, then provide employment to a lot of people only to be told that the Union was going to screw them into the ground, heck guys that’s what I would do; just tell everybody to go home and shut the doors. It gives the employees the opportunity to start their own business or buy the one they are working for. Let them bond their possessions and sign at the bank. Sounds pretty fair to me; why didn’t the mines think of this one five months ago? What you say, Erna. I think you are right.

  • Guido Mol - 2014-06-28 08:03

    In the country I come from the salaries are linked to the inflation rate and adjusted on a monthly basis. Keep the products in the current basket it will initially have a cost factor but it will stabilise soon after that. Including the inflation rate which can go were it wants as you salary keeps tab with it.(within reason)Any country that monitors or has an inflation index should have made this law so joe-soap in the street does not suffer. Of course there should be a cut-off for high salary earners, company directors, government etc. They get a yearly adjustment.

      lacrimosewolf - 2014-06-28 08:31

      Our inflation rate is circa 6%

  • Todays Realist - 2014-06-28 11:57

    To create increased employment it is better the have the lower entry level wage. This allows the unskilled to become skilled and increase their opportunities. I expect that the Unions want to retain the status quo because "they are fighting for a living wage". Rather have some income than none at all is more important in my view. Less hand outs and more work opportunities is required to move SA to the next level.

  • Erica Dippenaar - 2014-06-28 12:09

    For a change the shoe is on the other foot eh?

      Paige Turner - 2014-06-28 17:35

      And that foot has just kicked the unions in the backside. Good on them.

  • Roger Pacey - 2014-06-29 13:16

    We have had two major strikes by NUMSA in recent history that have been characterised by illegal and violent behaviour by striking workers. People that I know in the metals industry are closing for safety reasons, not a political measure.

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