EDITORIAL | Union, bosses must find each other, fast

Image: NUMSA

Today we report that wage negotiations between metal workers’ union Numsa and auto sector and component-manufacturing bosses have deadlocked.

Workers are demanding a 16% increase for the first year of the threeyear negotiation cycle, 14% in the second year and 13% in the third.

Employers are offering 6.5% for the first year and 6% for the two subsequent years, the union said on Wednesday. Of course, such negotiations are part of the cut and thrust of the South African labour framework.

The workers will argue that the wage demands, albeit far above inflation, come off a very low base and that they struggle to keep up with SA’s rising cost of living.

Numsa national treasurer Mphumzi Maqungo kicked off the war talk this week, saying employers should except a full-blown strike if they do not concede to the demands.

Employers, on the other hand, will tell you that these increases are not affordable and that the rising cost of doing business in this country, which at times is not matched by improved productivity, makes it difficult for many companies to compete on a global scale.

Somewhere between the two positions, the parties must find common ground, and fast.

The Eastern Cape is home to four of the major car manufacturers in South Africa – Volkswagen, Isuzu, Ford and Mercedes-Benz.

The worrisome state of our provincial economy is well documented.

Therefore, none of us can afford bruising industrial action that will further weaken our productivity.

Just recently, car manufacturers and other industries lost millions worth of revenue due to a go-slow at the Port of Ngqura.

Productivity in SA is frequently hampered by poor trading conditions caused by a range of factors, including interruptions to the electricity supply.

A lengthy strike by thousands of workers at this crucial time would be disastrous for the country.

It would further exacerbate an already volatile trading environment and have far-reaching consequences, not only for the companies and their workers, but for much-needed economic growth.

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