Seifsa: Numsa must be realistic

Seifsa says Numsa shouldn't focus on unaffordable and unreasonable double-digit wage hikes.

Numsa members on strike in Cape Town on 1 July 2014. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has threatened to strike indefinitely if employers do not agree to their demands including the banning of labour brokers and a salary hike of 12 percent.

The mass action by over 200,000 Numsa-affiliated workers is expected to cripple iron and steel, automotive and engineering sectors.

Over 5,000 union members marched to the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (Seifsa)'s headquarters in Johannesburg yesterday to hand over a memorandum of demands.

Seifsa accepted Numsa's detailed six page memorandum which lists amongst other things, a R1,000 housing allowance, a labour broker ban, career and training opportunities for all workers and a 12 percent salary increase.

Employers have offered an increase of between seven and eight percent.

Congress of South African Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi told thousands of workers during yesterday's march that they have the democratic right to withdraw labour if employers don't give them what they want.

Striking workers told Eyewitness News that in light of commodity price increases, they aren't willing to settle for anything less than 12 percent.

The strike was marred by regular clashes with police and vandalism of public property.

Numsa has warned Seifsa that is has until tomorrow to respond to its demands or workers will down tools indefinitely.

Seifsa chief executive Kaizer Nyatsumba has urged Numsa to return to the negotiating table.

"We would very much want to return to negotiations so people can return to work."

Meanwhile, Numsa members are expect to picket outside Eskom's headquarters in Johannesburg later today.

The Labour Court yesterday barred workers at the power utility's plants from joining the strike.

The interdict was granted because the power utility's projects are deemed essential services, which makes it illegal for workers at the plant to go on strike.

But construction firm Murray & Roberts says the mass action has halted work on the Medupi and Kusile power stations.

"In mid-July we will be hearing from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration about the process to be followed. As Eskom we are committed to following that path."

'WORKERS HAVE NO CHOICE'

Numsa in the Western Cape says it's standing up against the exploitation of the country's entire working class.

Numsa's Western Cape secretary Vuyo Lefele says they had no other choice than to strike because workers are unable to survive on their current wages.

"One worker is taking care of more than five people. To live under slave wages is a crisis in this country."

But Seifsa's Colin Boyes says the strike isn't helpful for either party.

"We don't think it's helpful for our economy or for our employees that we prolong the strike at all."

Thousands of Numsa members gathered in the CBD yesterday where demonstrators compared their labour situation to the Marikana demonstrations on the platinum belt.

FINANCIAL IMPACT

Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene has warned the strike could have serious consequences for the country's ailing economy.

The minister said strikes curtail tax collection due to ripple effects on tax payers in other sectors.

He said it's going to take a significant effort to repair South Africa's weaker economy following the recent platinum strike.

Nene argued the crippling effects of Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union's mining strike largely overshadowed growth attempts in other sectors.

The finance minister said he hoped for a quick resolution to the strike as the country prepared to stimulate economic growth.

Video: Numsa strike slideshow.

Seifsa has accepted Numsa's detailed six page memorandum which lists among other things, a R1,000 housing allowance, a labour broker ban, career and training opportunities for all workers and a 12 percent salary increase.

Employers have offered an increase of between seven and eight percent.

Seifsa has accepted Numsa's detailed six page memorandum which lists among other things, a R1,000 housing allowance, a labour broker ban, career and training opportunities for all workers and a 12 percent salary increase.

Employers have offered an increase of between seven and eight percent.