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Tensions grow between Neasa & Seifsa

Neasa says it should've been consulted before Seifsa tabled a 10 percent offer to Numsa.

Around 200,000 Numsa members are demanding a 15 percent salary increase. Picture: EWN,

JOHANNESBURG - Tensions are building between the two employer bodies negotiating with the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) to end the ongoing metal and engineering strike with the National Employers Association of South Africa (Neasa) warning the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (Seifsa) that it has set unrealistic expectations.

Seifsa, which represents big business in the sector, has offered Numsa a 10 percent wage hike while Neasa, negotiating for smaller businesses, says it can only afford eight percent.

Neasa says if Numsa accepts the 10 percent offer it could be extended across the industry which would result in a court challenge to prevent this from being implemented.

Neasa chief executive Gerhard Papenfus says his association should have been consulted before Seifsa tabled a 10 percent offer, considering the implications.

"Seifsa made a big mistake making that offer without consulting us and to some extent, that has compromised the employer position and that is complicated."

Papenfus says they have successfully challenged the extension of a Seifsa agreement in the past and will do so again.

Talks between Numsa and the two employers are expected to resume again today.

At the same time, the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council says it does not expect tensions between Neasa and Seifsa to delay the deal to end the ongoing Numsa strike.

The bargaining council's general secretary Thulani Mthiyane says, "We should try find an inclusive solution where all the employers will speak with one voice. I don't think it will drive Neasa and Seifsa to a point where they will say that this industry must burn to ashes."

Around 200,000 workers downed tools in the metals and engineering sector on 1 July.

The union was initially demanding a 12 percent wage increase, a R1,000 housing allowance, career and training opportunities for all workers and the banning of labour broking and has vowed to cripple the metal and automotive industries if its demands are not met.

The union has since revised the wage demand to 15 percent.

The strike action is expected to cost the economy over R280 million a day in lost output.

Credit ratings agency Moody's said last week the labour unrest would consign South Africa to a third consecutive year of sub-par growth and posed risks for its rating.

ARRESTED WORKERS TO REMAIN IN CUSTODY

Gauteng police say 26 people arrested for public violence relating to the Numsa strike will remain behind bars after failing to come up with R3,000 each for bail.

Nineteen of the men appeared in the Germiston Magistates Court last week after being arrested for vandalism of property on the East Rand.

The strike has seen widespread intimidation and theft, especially on the East Rand.

A number of factory owners and non-striking workers were assaulted last week and millions of rands worth of computers, office equipment and other belongings were damaged and stolen.

A heavily pregnant woman was among several people assaulted and business owners in industrial areas on the East Rand have told workers to stay at home for now.

Yesterday, two steel and engineering companies in Germiston and Olifantsfontein came under attack.

It's understood a large group of people wearing Numsa T-shirts broke down the gate of the SA Metal Group and pelted rocks at windows of cars belonging to employees.

In Olifantsfontein, strikers apparently conducted searches at companies to ensure non-unionised members supported the work stoppage.