Mediation in motor sector wage talks fails

Numsa threatens strike if second round of mediation does not break deadlock

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim
Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim
Image: Business Times

Mediation talks to break the deadlock between the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and Motor Industries Bargaining Council (Mibco) over wage increases failed on Monday.

They are set to meet in about two weeks time to try to resolve the impasse, failing which the staff in the motor sector are likely to embark on a strike.

The union has been in drawn-out talks for the past few weeks at the council, which is a broader bargaining forum that incorporates component companies and associations such as the Fuel Retailers’ Association (FRA) of Southern Africa and the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI).

The union is demanding a double-digit increase, while a 5% increase over the three-year wage agreement was put forward.

In a statement on Tuesday, Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said they were disappointed in the attitude of the employers.

"It is clear to us that the employers have no desire to resolve the impasse soon," Jim said. 

"They have adopted a stubborn attitude and they are in no rush to try and resolve the dispute.

"We have had numerous engagements with employers and in all those engagements they have not responded at all in detail to all our demands.

"The burning issue is the peace clause which locks us into a wage deal of three years, and in that time, we are unable to negotiate benefits and conditions until the agreement expires."

He said they were wanting transport and night shift allowance for fuel station workers and could not allow for it to be delayed for another three years.

"Most workers earn R20 per hour and cannot afford alternative transportation on their low salaries and therefore, the company must provide transportation.

"This has been a demand from workers since 2013 and it must be resolved. But employers are stubbornly refusing to engage on this issue at all.

"Instead, the bosses have responded by saying they want a three-year agreement, and they will only offer 5% increase for year one, two and three.

"They are not interested in dealing with issues affecting workers on a day to day basis.

"Workers and their families are suffering the most from the dismal state of the economy.

"This is why the demand for transportation is a crucial issue for our members.

“Every day, it is becoming more difficult for them to make ends meet, and public transportation to and from work is very costly,” Jim said.

Mediation will resume on September 23 at the CCMA.

“If we are unable to resolve the dispute, then unfortunately, we will be headed for a full-blown strike,” Jim said.

In a statement, RMI chief operation officer Jan Schoeman said Numsa was not prepared to depart from their proposals.

There was also pressure on the employers to invalidate the Peace Clause, which prohibits plant-level bargaining.

Schoeman said the Peace Clause was fundamental to peace, sustainability and viability of the industry, and was therefore deemed to be a “non-negotiable” by the RMI. 

“The RMI had been mandated by our members not to dilute or invalidate this particular provision," Schoeman said.

He confirmed the dispute remains unresolved and that the next attempt at mediation under the auspices of the CCMA would take place later this month.

*This article has been updated to include comment from the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI).