South Africa’s Metal Workers End Strike with 6% Wage Deal

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has agreed to a new three-year wage deal for steelworkers, bringing an end to a strike that’s dragged on since October 5.

Secretary-general Irvin Jim of Numsa, South Africa’s biggest metalworkers union, said employers, the National Employers Association of South Africa (Neasa) and the Consolidated Employers Organisation had to quickly accede to the new wages that would give workers R52.52 per hour in the first year, R55.67 in the second year and R59.01 in year three.

The agreement comes with backpay for workers dating to July first, though a compromise from the demand for 8 per cent.

The union initially demanded 15 per cent, which had been whittled down to the 6 per cent that will give entry-level workers on Grade I, currently at R49.50 an increase to R52.52 in the first year and R55.27 in the second year. Workers in the middle G grade at R51.55 an hour now will go up to R54.75, R58.03 and R61.62 in the third year.

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The lowest-paid workers will effectively receive an increment of R478 while those on the upper tiers, who will get an increment of between 5 per cent and 5.5 per cent, will receive an increment of R500.

Jim added “we will compromise and accept the current offer for the sole purpose of settling the current strike in the best interest of our members,” “Numsa members have paid a heavy price during the strike, and it is in their interest that the union does everything possible to ensure that we resolve the strike as soon as possible, as every day on a strike is a sacrifice.”

We are asking the Department of Labour, that as we sign the agreement this afternoon, they should work speedily in the interest of the workers, they must gazette it quickly. This agreement is extended to all workers in the industry. It is up to the conservative employer unions to tell us if they accept this or workers will vote with their feet,” Jim said.

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He said, “Our workers will go back to work on Friday, the latest date for returning to work will be Monday the 25th. If the other employer associations fail to inform us of their positions, we will not be held responsible,” Jim said, accusing the other employer organisation of not fairly bargaining in negotiations during the strike and also offering paltry R4.28 by Neasa and R4.43 by Seifsa

The strike affected mining, construction, engineering and metallurgical businesses, and dealt a further blow to SA’s economy that shrank 6.4% last year due to stop-start shutdowns imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the CEO of the Steel and Engineering Industry Federation of South Africa, Lucio Trentini, It cost affected companies a total of R600m in revenue and the striking workers lost R300m in wages during the period.

“We are happy that Numsa has agreed to the offer. It is a commitment we will be honouring. It has been a bruising three weeks for all of us and it is time now to put everything behind us and rebuild the sector,” Trentini said.

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Trentini said employers who had not been part of the bargaining still had provision to apply for exemption to the deal, but that he hoped the industry would ultimately work together in the interest of growing the sector.

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