It’s a crunch week for the motor sector, with negotiations taking place in an attempt to resolve a deadlock and avoid a strike by the 306 000 workers employed by, among others, automotive component manufacturers, petrol service stations and car dealerships.
National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) national spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said negotiations will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday with employers in the motor sector, including the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) and Fuel Retailers Association (FRA).
“This is our last meeting to unlock the deadlock, otherwise we are going on strike in the motor sector,” she said, adding that Numsa represents 90 000 of the 306 000 workers in the sector.
Numsa is demanding a one-year motor sector agreement and a 12% across-the-board wage increase.
The negotiations are taking place under the auspices of the Motor Industries Bargaining Council (MIBCO).
Three rounds of talks
Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said they have had three rounds of wage talks with bosses in the sector since the first round of negotiations on 23 and 24 March and that despite these engagements, the sector has not tabled an offer.
“Numsa has presented its wage demands. The management keeps demanding that we must reduce our demand but they have put nothing on the table.
“They have not made an offer. They may as well have put zero on the table!” he said.
RMI CEO Jakkie Olivier said on Monday the mediation session the negotiating teams will engage in over the next two days is part of a process and that for the RMI to comment on detail now would be premature and could potentially undermine the bargaining process.
He said there are a couple of issues that are going to impact on the process, the biggest of which relates to Numsa’s national conference last week, which was not without its challenges.
“We are keen to hear from Numsa over the next two days as to what transpired in their national conference and how that is going to impact on our negotiations.
“As employers, we are confident that a solution is possible that will protect the industry and labour and protect the sustainability [of the sector]. That is what is key for us going forward.
“If the unions and employers are serious about protecting the industry on the back of everything that has happened over the last couple of years, I think a solution will be possible and the process will produce that, as it has in the past.
“We have never been without an agreement, even if it took a strike,” he said.
Dispute declared, now to resolve it
Jim confirmed that Numsa has declared a dispute with employers and will be meeting them this week under the auspices of the Dispute Resolution Committee of MIBCO with the view to breaking the deadlock.
“We hope to resolve this over the next two days. If we fail to find one another, then unfortunately we will be headed for a national strike.
“We will then proceed with picketing rules and insist that a certificate of strike is issued.
“A strike can be avoided. All we are asking for is meaningful engagement,” said Jim.
“Numsa remains ready to talk and we urge them to work with us to resolve this impasse”
He added that the current agreement with the motor sector expires on 30 August and claimed that it is obvious that employers are using delaying tactics.
Meanwhile, the third round of negotiations in the auto sector between Numsa and the Automobile Manufacturers Employers Organisation (Ameo), whose members are the seven local original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), is scheduled to take place this month.
Andile Dlamini, a spokesperson for Ameo, said on Monday the date for the next round of negotiations with Numsa still has to be confirmed but stressed the negotiations are “a fairly long process”.
Dlamini confirmed that the most recent three-year agreement between Ameo and Numsa expired on 31 July, but said it was agreed between the parties as part of the expired agreement that the 2019 agreement will still be applicable until the next agreement has been signed.
He confirmed that Ameo again wants a three-year agreement with Numsa because it ensures stability in the industry, but declined to comment on any Numsa demands or offers made by Ameo.
“Once agreement has been reached, that will be available,” he said.
During the first round of negotiation over a new agreement, Numsa tabled its demands to the National Bargaining Forum (NBF).
Numsa’s core demands include:
An across-the-board wage increase of 20%;
A one-year agreement;
100% payment during short-time and layoff; and
Movement of workers from skills Level 4 to Level 5.
Numsa said the 100% payment during short-time and layoff is a burning issue for its members because workers in the past two years have been subjected to excessive short time, which has led to workers becoming “hugely indebted”.
The union said the movement of workers from Level 4 to Level 5 has been a problem for the past 10 years, with most employees stopping at Level 4, which has an impact on their earning potential.
Numsa claimed that Ameo members, “after reaping massive profits”, are proposing:
A three-year agreement; and
Wage increases based on the consumer price index (CPI), with a wage increase of 6.2% proposed in year one of the agreement, 5.6% in year two and 4.7% in year three.
Numsa’s Irvin Jim said employers started their presentation by claiming they are “breaking new ground” but it seems that what they meant by that is that “they intend to give workers below inflation increases”.