The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) national strike in the engineering sector went into full gear today.  Workers marched to the Metals and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC) as part of the first day of action. They handed over a memorandum of demands to the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) headquarters in Johannesburg.

Numsa has embarked on a national strike regarding wages. Other marches happened in the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and a number of rallies were held in the Western Cape.

The union reached a deadlock with all employer associations in the sector including Seifsa, Saefa and Neasa. Unions want an 8% wage increase across the board. Employers have agreed to a 4.4% salary increase.

Numsa leadership says they will continue their strike action until their demands are met.

“As Numsa we continue to look forward to engagements with employers. Until that happens the strike is an indefinite strike and we hope they can at least make a proposal which members will find acceptable,” says Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola.

Meanwhile, the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) says they are willing to renegotiate with Numsa and its members regarding current wages.

“ It really is unfortunate that Numsa has decided to call a national industry strike. This is not the time we should be downing tools in a sector that is struggling to recover from the ravages of COVID-19. We appreciate why Numsa has done what they have done, we do not necessarily agree with it, and having received the memorandum this afternoon we will retreat as the employer negotiation team and consider the contents of the memorandum and make ourselves available to continue talking with Numsa,” says Seifsa CEO Lucio Trentini.

Seifsa willing to go back to the negotiating table: 

Seifsa says they would like to resolve the strike action as soon as possible. Trentini says he is confident they will find a resolution.

“And the last time we had a strike in the sector was in 2014 and we have reached an agreement every year after up until this year. So we are not an industry that does not find one another sometimes, we find one another relatively quickly and sometimes we have to arm wrestle a little bit. We are arm-wrestling now and we will find an agreement.”

Seifsa also says the main issue is about money and not benefits.

“The entry-level rate for a labourer is R12 500 now that’s not what employees would like to earn,  it is a fair monthly package and that excludes the guarantee increases we will be agreeing on for this year and the next two years. Next year we are rewarding an increase plus CPI point-five percent increase and the year after CPI plus one, that’s a guaranteed increase over the next two years.”