Employer body Neasa and metalworkers’ union Numsa are at loggerheads over a wage settlement, with the association this week claiming to have convinced the union to accept a 7% wage hike in the metal and engineering industry.
The union has denied this, saying it was expecting the National Employers’ Association of SA (Neasa) to comply with the bargaining council agreement of a 10% increase brokered by Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant last year.
It said it expected Neasa to lift the lockout of its members and allow them to return to work as the Johannesburg Labour Court had ruled last month.
When the lockout was effected in July, 510 workers were affected nationally with 11 being from Nelson Mandela Bay. The number had now dropped to about 300 nationally.
All 11 workers who were locked out from Natglass Processing Manufacturing company in North End, Port Elizabeth, went back to work.
However, four have since been fired for their involvement in the strike. They are challenging their dismissal. Two days before Christmas, Labour Court Judge Annelie Basson declared Neasa’s lockout of their workers as unlawful and unprotected from the date Numsa gave in to Neasa’s lockout demands.
In its July 27 notice of intention to lock out striking workers, Neasa demanded, among others, that Numsa accept a 7% wage increase and that companies with 50 workers or fewer be exempt from the bargaining council main agreement.
On Tuesday, Neasa chief executive Gerhard Papenfus said Numsa had met their demands and they had lifted the lockout, but that the bargaining council agreement still needed to be ironed out.
Backing his statement, Papenfus referred to a December 11 e-mail from Numsa’s attorney, Ruth Edmonds, to Neasa’s Anton Bakker Attorneys.
The e-mail said because the union’s national leadership had agreed to Neasa and individual companies’ demands, they expected that the lockout would be lifted as per the court ruling.
However, Numsa national treasurer Mphumzi Maqungo said: “Where is this agreement because we never signed anything with them. Why would we sign an agreement that would be less favourable for the workers?”
– Mkhululi Ndamase