Numsa: Most members back at work

Neasa has refused to hike wages by 10 percent, saying it can only afford to offer a 7 percent increase.

FILE: Members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) march for better wages in Cape Town on 1 July 2013. Picture: Sapa.

CAPE TOWN - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) in the Western Cape has announced the majority of protesting members are back at work following lockouts at companies affiliated to the National Employers Association of South Africa (Neasa).

Neasa says it cannot match the 10 percent wage hike brokered between Numsa and the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa), saying it can only afford a seven percent increase.

Over 200,000 Numsa-affiliated workers downed tools at steel and engineering companies across the country for a 10 percent wage hike on 1 July, halting production at automakers including General Motors and hitting work at new power plants.

The union and other employers in the metal and engineering sector brokered a deal on 28 July, ending the almost four-week long strike.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim hailed the wage agreement as a massive victory for its members, adding the settlement is the product of sweat and bitter struggles.

But Neasa claims many smaller businesses in the industry will either close or will have to retrench workers if they gave in to the 10 percent hike.

Numsa's Vuyo Lufele however says some employers are willing to compromise.

"Some of the employers are really seeing this as unjust for the workers. They can't just follow Neasa's position while they've got workers who they have had a relationship with for quite some time. Those workers are going to back to work, I can tell you the majority of workers have gone back now."