ArcelorMittal responds to upcoming metalworkers national strike

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The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) will be embarking on a national strike on 5 October 2021.

This comes after the union held its Special National Executive Committee (SNEC) meeting. The focus of the meeting was to reflect on the stubbornness of employers, who are refusing to increase wages that will settle this round of negotiations in the Engineering sector.

NUMSA has deadlocked with all employer associations in Engineering, namely NEASA, SEIFSA, SAEFA and the CEO of the Metals Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC).

NUMSA National Spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola explains the MEIBC represents over 430 000 workers in the Engineering sector nationally. NUMSA is currently negotiating a wage deal because the current agreement expired on 30 June.

Hlubi-Majola says, “We have secured a certificate of non-resolution, which allows the union and all its members in the Engineering sector to embark on a national strike. The SNEC held a detailed discussion on this which started in the NUMSA National Shop Steward Council.”

Concerningly, the union resolved to embark on the militant mobilisation of all workers in the Engineering sector. 

This, in order to embark on an indefinite national strike until workers’ demands are met.

The strike will take place on 5 October 2021. “This looming national strike is a clear rejection of the insulting offer which SEIFSA advanced on behalf of employers. They have proposed a three-year agreement of a 4.4% increase for this year, which is based on minimums, and not on the actual rates of pay. They have also offered CPI + 0.5% for the second year, and CPI + 1% for the third year.”

She adds that NUMSA, on behalf of its members in the industry, is calling on employers to meet their demand of an 8% increase across the board for the first year. And CPI + 2% improvement factor for the second and third year. If CPI + 2% falls below 6%, employers must offer 6% or re-open negotiations. This will settle the round of negotiations.

“Our members sacrificed their increases in order to save the Engineering sector because of the Covid-19 pandemic, by signing a standstill agreement in 2020. The agreement meant that workers did not get an increase, but it ensured that their conditions remained the same. Employers have benefitted from this, but they do not want to give anything back to workers. Instead, their position of refusing to give workers a meaningful increase can only be interpreted as one thing – that they want to give workers a zero % increase this year, which is a position that NUMSA rejects,” She further stresses.

As a result, Hlubi-Majola states that NUMSA has been left with no choice but to mobilise all workers in the Engineering sector. Including union members and non-union members.

Moreover, NUMSA declares that the march’s purpose is to demonstrate against employers who have shown that they are unmoved by the suffering of workers and their families. They care only about their profits. 

NUMSA National Office-Bearers will address a press conference to provide details on the upcoming national strike.

As the strike is set to take place in a matter of days, ArcelorMittal South Africa (AMSA) explains that it has noted the developments in the metals sector wage talks.

“While the company is affiliated to SEIFSA, it is not party to the sector negotiations, but rather undertakes a separate collective labour agreement negotiation process, which resulted in an internal agreement,” stated AMSA. 

However, the steel giant highlighted the possible industrial action that would affect the company insofar as it impacts its customers and suppliers/service contractors. “It is difficult to speculate on the impact of a strike, as there are many factors which would influence this, including the extent and reach of the strike and how long it lasts.”

Nevertheless, AMSA emphasises contingency measures have been devised should industrial action be initiated. “Any industrial action would be regrettable at this time, and would negatively impact on the recovery of the sector, and the economy at large, after a difficult year in 2020.”

With the looming strike insight, what are your thoughts on the matter? 

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