SEIFSA and MEMSA join forces to celebrate excellent manufacturers

The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA) and the Mining Equipment Manufacturers of South Africa (MEMSA) will celebrate the hard work and dedication of manufacturing companies in their combined 2022 Awards for Excellence Event.

MEMSA has partnered with SEIFSA to recognise excellence, with MEMSA focusing on manufacturers of equipment for the mining industry and SEIFSA recognising companies in the Metals and Engineering (M&E) sector that have displayed innovation, competitiveness, resilience and excellence.

“SEIFSA is calling on employers to have their achievements recognised by entering the Awards for Excellence Event which provides a platform to celebrate the achievements of companies that have thrived despite the many challenges we face at present, including the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing constraints impacting on our sector,” says SEIFSA CEO Lucio Trentini.

“The MEMSA Manufacturing Excellence Awards will showcase South African manufacturers achieving excellence in manufacturing processes and the delivery of customised, quality service to the mining industry, while building local supply chains”, says Lehlohonolo Molloyi, MEMSA CEO

The SEIFSA Award Categories are:

• Most Digitally Innovative Company Award recognises an enterprise using new technologies and demonstrating innovation in their approach to projects and/or its business;
• Most Transformed Company Award for the company that is most transformed in terms of ownership and the composition of its board of directors, executive management and managerial team, as well as skills development and enterprise development initiatives;
• The Best Customer Service Award for the company that receives the highest rating from its customers for its customer service;
• The Workplace Health and Safety Award acknowledges a company’s best-practice approaches and achievement in workplace health and safety;
• The Company Artisan Training Award for the company that has the highest activity in artisan training and development;
• The Corporate Social Responsibility Award for the company whose CSI project has made the biggest impact on the lives of its beneficiaries;
• The Environment Stewardship Award recognises a project in the M&E sector that exemplifies the practices of environmental stewardship;
• The Business Resilience Award for the company that has shown resilience, agility and adaptability in 2021/ 2020 and especially during the Covid-19 pandemic;
• The Young Entrepreneur Award for a business owned by a person 35 years or younger that has demonstrated growth for over two years and contributed to job creation in the industry; and
• The Businesswoman of the Year Award recognises a woman who runs a successful business in the M&E sector and who has contributed significantly to the development of sector.

The 2022 MEMSA Manufacturing Excellence Awards categories will assess customer service, strategic use of technology, building employees and re-industrialising South Africa in four categories:

• Customised Customer Service;
• Localised Supply Chain;
• Manufacturing Solutions; and
• MEMSA Member Manufacturer of the Year

The fourth category, MEMSA Member of the Year, is open to only MEMSA members and will be awarded to the company that has consistently and continuously improved their management, operations, health and safety, and environmental standards in supply to the mining sector during the year under review.

Companies wishing to show-case and share their achievements are invited to enter on-line, entries close on October 05 for MEMSA entries and 21 October for SEIFSA entries. The Awards Event will take place on 17 November 2022.

SAFTU’S intended protest action on 23 & 24 August 2022


As member companies may be aware from recent media reports, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), of which NUMSA is a member, is preparing for a national day of action in the form of a general national strike commencing on 23rd August until midnight on the 24th August 2022 in protest against the rising cost of living, unemployment, budget cuts, crime, blackouts and a push back against privatisation.

This Management Brief provides some basic background to the issue and guidance to Management in dealing with the intended protest action.

Protest Action and the Labour Relations Act

The Labour Relations Act (LRA) permits registered trade unions or federations such as SAFTU to undertake protected protest action to promote the social and economic interests of workers, provided that they observe the procedural requirements contained in Section 77 of the LRA.

It is important to note that this application was duly considered by NEDLAC and the NEDLAC Section 77 Standing Committee has determined the notice to be compliant with the administrative requirements of the LRA.

As SAFTU is a federation of trade unions, this opens the way for all SAFTU affiliated trade unions, for example NUMSA, to piggyback on the protected action.

Please note that once NEDLAC deems the notice of action as being compliant with the provisions of Section 77 of the LRA, every employee who is not engaged in an essential service has the right to take part in the protest action.

Consequently, all employees even employees who are not members of a trade union affiliated to SAFTU may participate in any action on 23rd and/or 24th August 2022.

Such action will be protected by the normal rules regarding protected strikes, namely: no-work, no-pay and no disciplinary action.

Management Guidelines on Possible Absenteeism on 23rd and 24th August 2022

SEIFSA recommends that Management adopt the following course of action in dealing with any stay-away from work on 23rd and/or 24th August 2022:

  • Inform all workers that any absences related to the protest action will be treated on the following basis:
  • no work, no pay, and no disciplinary action;
  • a shift for leave pay and leave enhancement pay qualification purposes will be forfeited in respect of a day’s absence on either the 23rd and/or 24th August; and
  • any overtime worked during the course of the week will be paid at ordinary rates to make up for the lost ordinary working hours from Tuesday, 23rd August and/or Wednesday, 24th August 2022.

The Staff of the SEIFSA Industrial Relations Division are available on (011) 298-9400 to provide any further advice and/ or assistance to Management on the contents of this Management Brief.

Transformed SEIFSA Training Centre is open and ready to prepare students for 4IR

Zukile Mosheshe Christopher Mvalo, the Deputy Director-General: Skills Development Branch at the Department of Higher Education and Training, opened the upgraded SEIFSA Training Centre in Benoni, Johannesburg, on Friday, July 22.

The renovated centre hopes to go some way to meeting President Cyril Ramaphosa's call for the private sector to step up and help with job creation, which cannot happen without skills development. In his State of the Nation Address in February 2022, the president said: “The reality in our country – as in most other countries – is that the private sector creates the most jobs.”

In his speech at the relaunch of the training centre, SIEFSA CEO Lucio Trentini spoke of the importance of addressing South Africa’s unemployment rate. “There is no doubt that South Africa desperately needs to utilise, absorb and develop local people in industry in order to achieve economic progress and in the process tackle the challenges of unemployment, inequality, poverty and now hunger in our country. In pursuit of this goal, SEIFSA realised a long time ago, that emphasis must be given to training in key technical trades for our youth and adults. “

The ribbon-cutting ceremony that Mvalo presided over opened the doors of the new centre, which, over the past year and a half, has been transformed from an old-style training centre focused mostly on apprenticeships to a state-of-the-art Fourth Industrial Revolution-ready training centre.

"The centre has been completely rebranded, with new buildings and new equipment, as the old centre was very outdated. We invited our clients and stakeholders to come and experience the new centre, which is nothing like the old one. It has all new offerings, and is physically completely different building," says SEIFSA Training Centre director Preggy Chetty.

The upgrade sets the centre apart from other South African training centres as it offers multidisciplinary expertise in engineering, high-end artisan and technical development, human capital, strategy, project and programme management, consulting, accreditation, and entrepreneurship and small business incubation capabilities.

Chetty is adamant that the skills training that the centre provides is meant as a steppingstone to finding work. "We can train people, but, if they cannot get jobs, then we need to do more," he says.

"The big leap is around going into business incubation, though the core of the business remains apprenticeships," says Chetty.

The new innovation hub and business incubation facilities will take newly qualified welders and boiler makers, for example, through the process of setting up their own small businesses with the support of the SEIFSA Training Centre, along with access to its facilities and help with securing contracts. "We are always there in the background," says Chetty.

But this is not the only leap - the new, improved SEIFSA Training Centre also offers 4IR-related skills such as robotics and 3D printing to meet industry demands. These skills will be taught using e-learning, virtual reality and e-assessments.

The SEIFSA Training Centre is run in partnership with Thuthukisa, a specialist advisory, consulting, projects management skills programmes delivery company.

The centre has the capacity to train 250 people per day and offers apprenticeships in 10 trades. The training centre is a Department of Higher Education and NAMB-registered Trade Test centre and has trade-tested more than 400 candidates per year, since 2014.

Parties to the MEIBC vote overwhelmingly for gazettal and extension of 2021-2024 metals and engineering main agreement

Johannesburg, 29 June 2022 – Parties to the Metals and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC) today voted overwhelmingly in favour of the extension of the three-year agreement reached in the metals and engineering sector in 2021.

During an historic meeting of the parties at the MEIBC this morning, during which all employer organisations registered with the council were in attendance:

  • The five-trade unions that are party to the council – namely, MEWUSA, NUMSA, SAEWA, Solidarity and UASA – all supported the extension of the Main Agreement to non-parties; and
  • The 18 SEIFSA-affiliated Employer Organisations, the Plastics Converters Association of South Africa (PCA-SA) and the Consolidated Employers Organisation (CEO), whose membership collectively employ the overwhelming majority of the employees employed by all the members of the employers’ organisations that are party to the bargaining council, voted in favour of extension.

Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA) Chief Executive Officer, Lucio Trentini said that the employer organisations supporting the extension of the 2021-2024 Main Agreement represent 71,57% of all employees employed by all the employers that are members of the Employer Organisations registered with the Bargaining Council, with SEIFSA-affiliated member companies alone representing 56,15% of those employees.

Mr Trentini revealed that the latest determination of the representativeness of the MEIBC issued by the Department of Labour in terms of Section 49 of the Labour Relations Act had shown that of the 468,874 employees in the industry, a total of 308,605 (65,81%) worked for employers represented by the employer organisations that are party to or registered with the Bargaining Council.

“The SEIFSA-affiliated employer Associations alone represent 56,15% of those employees,” he said.

According to the Department of Employment and Labour’s determination of representatives, NEASA represents 19,15% of employees working for companies registered with the council, the Plastics Converters’ Association of SA represents 10,81%, the South African Engineers and Founders Association represents 6%, the Confederation of Employers Organisation represents 4,60%, the South Africa United Commercial & Allied Employers Organisation represents 2,56% and the Federated Employers Organisation of SA represents 0,73%.

“In the case of a section 32 extension, where an agreement is negotiated and concluded by bargaining agents who represent and employ the majority of employees falling within the council’s coverage, the extension of a bargaining council agreement is seen as a reasonable and necessary mechanism of collective bargaining,” said Mr Trentini.

He referred to the finding by Judge  John Murphy, who had ruled, on behalf of a full bench of the North Gauteng (Pretoria) High Court in the 2016 Free Market Foundation (FMF) v Minister of Labour & Others Judgment, that the extension of a bargaining council’s collective agreement was legal, provided that one or more registered trade union/s whose members constitute the majority of the members of the trade unions that are party to the bargaining council vote in favour of the extension, and one or more registered employers’ organisations, whose members employ the majority of the employees employed by the members of the employers’ organisations that are party to the bargaining council, vote in favour of the extension.

During the MEIBC meeting this morning,

  • The five-trade unions that are party to the council – namely, Mewusa, Numsa, Saewa, Solidarity and Uasa – all supported the extension of the Main Agreement to non-parties; and
  • The 18-SEIFSA affiliated Employer Organisations, the Plastics Converters Association of South Africa (PCA-SA) and the Consolidated Employers Organisation (CEO), whose membership collectively employ the overwhelming majority of the employees employed by all the members of the employers’ organisations that are party to or registered with the Bargaining Council, voted in favour of extension.

Together, the 18 SEIFSA-affiliated Associations – which represent small, medium and big businesses across the sector – the Plastics Converters Association of South Africa (PCA-SA) and the Consolidated Employers Organisation (CEO) account for 71,57% of all employees employed by all the employer organisations on the bargaining council.

Mr Trentini explained that the Collective Main Agreement concluded on 21 October 2021 for the period 1 July 2021 to 30 June 2024, will now be forwarded to the Department of Employment and Labour with a request for the Minister of Labour to gazette the Agreement and make it legally binding on all employers and employees falling within its scope.

Employers must drive implementation of the Steel Master Plan, says SEIFSA

The pivotal role that employers must play in ensuring the objectives of the Steel Master Plan become a reality was highlighted at the Steel and Engineering Federation of Southern Africa’s (SEIFSA’s) Mainstreaming the Steel Master Plan Conference on May 19 and 20.

This is the view of SEIFSA CEO Lucio Trentini, who said that everyone who attended the conference – captains of industry, senior member of government and union leaders must stand together in wanting the Steel Master Plan to succeed, though employers have a particularly important role to play.

Furthermore, as a body representing employers in the steel industry - both upstream and downstream – SEIFSA, through its eighteen Employer Associations, is best positioned to ensure the objectives of the plan are met. Trentini said a lot was riding on the SMP and neither government, business nor labour could expect to do it on their own.

“SEIFSA’s associated employer membership employs the vast majority of employees in the sector and has a long-established track-record of successfully representing the interests of its membership.  Hence, SEIFSA is ideally placed to champion the aspirations of the Steel Master Plan,” said Trentini.

While the conference heard about many of the SMP’s early wins since it was signed in June 2021, stakeholders expressed their impatience with the lack of implementation.

SEIFSA COO Tafadzwa Chibanguza said the discussions about the SMP at the conference have shown the important role industry can play in making public-private partnerships work. The SMP represents a collaborative approach with stakeholders working together in pursuit of agreed end objectives, he said.

Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel also emphasised the importance of partnership. He said that building a sustainable path involved business, labour and government all understanding that for the plan to work, difficult choices and sometimes compromises would need to be made. The focus needed to be on partnership and working together, rather than any party expecting their demands to be met in absolute terms.

Ensuing that more can be done in the months ahead, Patel said his department was committed to reducing red tape in internal processes. SEIFSA has also identified this as an opportunity for collaborative efforts where the private sector can contribute to identifying areas where red tape is unnecessarily hindering progress, especially in areas that may be a blind-spot for the state.

“The Steel Master Plan Conference was a successful two-day event, with participants leaving with a renewed appreciation of the plan and, importantly, the work that needs to be done.” said Trentini.

“In championing the Metals and Engineering Sector recovery and growth, SEIFSA will avail itself to working collaboratively with all like-minded employer bodies,’’ Trentini said.

SEIFSA is working on a comprehensive report of the conference proceedings.

Important announcement: SMP conference venue change

Due to the Minister of Health extending the government’s coronavirus transitional rules at midnight for a further three-months, we unfortunately have had to find an alternative venue to accommodate the numbers we expect at the Conference.

Seating at the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) under the status quo is limited to 60 which unfortunately is not suitable. We have been able to confirm an alternative venue, Emperors Palace, Kempton Park which we are confident will be able to accommodate all expected delegates.

In their practical effect, the extension of the transitional rules, means that masking for indoor public spaces and restrictions on indoor gatherings remain unchanged. As before, all gatherings are limited to 50% of normal occupancy and no more than 1,000 people may gather indoors unless proof of vaccination or a coronavirus test result is checked on entry.

We have confirmed with the venue and in anticipation that we will not breach 1,000 delegates neither will be required on registration.

Thank you for your understanding and our apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Nuraan Alli

MSC Executive

Save the date for SEIFSA's Mainstreaming the Steel Master Plan Conference

The Steel and Engineering Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA) will give Government, Business and Labour a chance to assess the progress of the Steel Master Plan (SMP) at its Mainstreaming the Steel Master Plan Conference on May 19 and 20.

The Plan — which was launched on June 11 2021 and signed by representatives of Government, Business and Labour — provides a series of practical steps for the steel and engineering industry to follow in order to reinvigorate itself.

Almost one year after the plan was signed, the industry is ready to see it take shape. SEIFSA CEO Lucio Trentini said: “This industry stands ready to make its contribution to translating the government’s vision of reindustrialising the metals and engineering (M&E) sector, and to start translating visions, promises and policy into action and deliverables.”

“We need government to roll-out its promised infrastructure spend, which is absolutely central to the reigniting of industrial capacity in the sector.”

The steel industry, as a direct driver of growth, investment and jobs, and as indirect supporter of the construction, automotive and mining sectors, is a crucial component in boosting the country’s industrial capacity.

“It’s going to be about increasing domestic demand for steel,” Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel said at the signing of the Steel Master Plan.

The conference will play host to senior Department of Trade, Industry and Competition officials, representatives from the Steel Oversight Committee, Business and Labour leaders who will analyse the progress of the plans as well as the commitments that will lay the foundations for the development and growth of the M&E sector in the years ahead.

Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel will deliver the keynote address, after an opening address from Elias Monage, SEIFSA President. Other speakers include Irvin Jim, the General Secretary of National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), and Marius Croukamp, Deputy General Secretary of Solidarity.

There will also be a series of panel discussions looking at supply-side measures, demand-side measures, transformation, resource mobilisation and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

Trentini said: “The big gains will be made by moving our infrastructure programme from shallow waters to deep waters and to get it moving on a bigger scale and then introducing a localisation requirement not only on primary steel, but also downstream steel.”

The Mainstreaming the Steel Master Plan conference will be held on May 19 and 20 at Industrial Development Corporation, Sandton. 

The conference will be organised and hosted by SEIFSA in partnership with the Industrial Development Corporation and the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition.

Book and view programme 

SEIFSA attends the fourth SA Investment Conference

In 2018 President Cyril Ramaphosa set an ambitious target to attract R1.2 trillion in foreign and domestic investment over a five-year period. This year, R332 billion worth of investment pledges were made, bringing the total investment pledges in four years to R1.14 trillion. This amount strips out project cancellations and deferred projects. Investments announced specific to the metals and metal fabrication sector alone amounted to R18.9 billion.

This leaves an amount of R60 billion needed to meet the target set by the President. Ramaphosa in closing the conference indicated that not only was he confident that this shortfall would be met, but in all likelihood, it would be exceeded.

SEIFSA was represented at the conference by the President of the Federation, Elias Monage, Chief Executive Officer, Lucio Trentini, and Chief Operating Officer, Tafadzwa Chibanguza. SEIFSA’s attendance at the conference was important as the event brings together almost all of the country’s senior role players in the economy under one roof. This platform provided an important opportunity for SEIFSA officials to meet with and lay the groundwork for two important events that are being planned by the Federation, namely: the meeting between SEIFSA and the Group Chief Executive Officer at Eskom which will be held in April 2022 and the Steel Master Plan Conference scheduled to take place in May 2022.

It also allowed an opportunity to meet and exchange details with a number of Presidential and Ministerial advisers, representatives of other organised business formations and government officials that share or serve the strategic interests of SEIFSA and in turn the affiliated membership.

An interesting theme that came to dominate the conversation at the conference was a comment made by Discovery, CEO, Mr. Adrian Gore. While on a panel he highlighted that in many aspects, there is often a divergent understanding between narrative versus reality. South Africa, he indicated is not sparred this fact, where reality is sometimes not as bad as the negative narrative that is continuously peddled. Gore went on to explain that the narrative is often that South Africa suffers from a poor and disappointingly low growth rate (averaging 1% to 1.5%) over the last decade. The reality, he pointed out, is that growth is stable, particularly when compared to other emerging economies with wild fluctuations in their GDP outcomes. Similarly, the fact that a number of sectors have rebounded to pre-covid levels, indicates some resilience in the economy. That is not to say that all is well with the South African economy, however, the point is that the negative narrative often carries the most attention and by extension adversely influences sentiment. The reverse he emphasised should then also hold, namely, that a lot more should be done by leaders to emphasise the reliance of the SA economy, its people, and businesses. This was a message that taken together with the point that perceptions shape our reality and the power of positive narrative stuck for the rest of the conference.

Some of the key points highlighted by companies that announced investments include:

South Africa has a relatively well developed soft and hard infrastructure base, particularly when compared to other African country economies;

  • A lot of the industrial productive capacity competes well globally;
  • A diverse and good skills pool;
  • A resilient economy; and
  • SA remains a springboard onto the continent.

The need to open avenues for greater private sector investment in the provision of infrastructure was highlighted by business leaders across the board. Businesses made the point, amongst others, that infrastructure bottlenecks in electricity, rail, and water are choking the potential of the economy. Reform in these areas will not only attract investment into the country to resolve the infrastructure challenges, but better infrastructure will help to sell and position the country as a preferred investment destination. This is a point of reform that SEIFSA on behalf of its Associations and affiliated membership will continue to lobby and advocate.

Health regulations to deal with Covid-19 and other medical conditions outside of the National State of Disaster

Dear Members

The Department of Health has published the proposed health regulations to deal with Covid-19 and other medical conditions outside of the National State of Disaster for public comment.

This effort is part of Government’s transition plans from the current National State of Disaster which has been in place for more than 2 years. These regulations have been presented to the NATJOINTS structures including the Legal and Regulatory Measures Workstream. Once approved, these regulations will be implemented within the National Department of Health with the support of some of the public entities reporting to the department and will not be tabled before Parliament as they are subordinate legislation.

The proposed regulations seek to introduce a number of control measures which include the:

• Surveillance and Control of Notifiable Medical Conditions;
• Public Health measures in points of entry;
• Management of Human Remains;
• Regulations relating to Environmental Health;

The regulations propose the following:

• Measures in ports of entry: all people entering or exiting South Africa during the pandemic, should present negative PCR test results not older than 72 hours, in the event that they do not- have a full vaccination certificate. This repeals the current requirement of negative PCR test results for all incoming travellers- with or without a vaccination certificate.

• As part of efforts to manage transmission during large gatherings considered to be possible super spreader events, the regulations proposed the restriction of night vigils and after-funeral gatherings. The indoor and outdoor gatherings may be occupied up to 50% of the venue capacity provided there is production of a valid vaccine certificate; practice of social distance of at least one metre and compulsory wearing of masks. The attendance of outdoor gatherings without proof of vaccination will be limited to only 1000 people and 2000 for outdoors with social distancing of at least one metre social distance.

SEIFSA being part of BUSA will contribute to the broader business response to these regulations.

Click here for the regulations for your perusal


Metals sector urged to seize South Africa’s beckoning Steel Master Plan opportunity

JOHANNESBURG ( – South Africa’s historic metals sector employer organisation on Wednesday urged all the sector’s employer bodies to roll up their sleeves on May 19 and 20 and get their teeth into the Steel Master Plan, which is seen to have promising reindustrialisation elements.

President Cyril Ramaphosa highlighted the Steel Master Plan in last month’s State of the Nation Address.

An upbeat Lucio Trentini, in his capacity as the CEO of the nigh-80-year-old Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa), described the challenges faced by the metals and engineering sector as being “quite daunting” and highlighted the amazing resilience that members had displayed in the last 12 to 18 months. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)

Seifsa has a combined membership of more than 1 200 companies that employ more than 170 000 personnel. Formed in 1943, its members range from giant steelmaking corporations to microenterprises employing fewer than 50 people.

“The message that I want to put out is that this industry stands ready to make its contribution to translating government’s vision of reindustrialising the metals and engineering sector, and to start translating visions, promises and policy into action and deliverables

“What we need is for the government to roll out its promised infrastructure spend, which is absolutely central to the reigniting of industrial capacity in the sector. I can assure you, if we see half of what government has promised, the sector will ignite, move forward and create the much-needed economic growth and consequent jobs and job opportunities that this country so sorely needs. We’re ready, we want to do our bit,” said Trentini in a Zoom interview with Engineering News & Mining Weekly.

The knock-on effects are felt throughout the economy owing to the sector’s role as supplier and customer into the mining, automotive, motor, construction and other manufacturing sub-industries.

“Because of the nature of our economy and its size, the major sectors of our economy are all interrelated, so when one cog in the wheel experiences a stutter, the effects are felt throughout the value chain,” said Trentini.

During the three-week stoppage of the sector last year, more than R300-million a week in lost wages and more than R600-million a week in lost revenue was shed by the sector – and those are very conservative figures.

“The knock-on effect into mining, construction, automotive component manufacturers, automotive assemblers was felt very deeply,” said the head of the organisation that sets out to foster mutually-beneficial relationships between employers, labour and government in creating a business environment conducive to growth.

When Trentini joined South Africa’s metals and engineering sector from JCI Gold and Uranium Company 30-odd years ago, it employed more than half-a-million blue-collar workers. Sadly, it is now down to half that number.

“Jobs are scarce and we need to hold on to the jobs we have and allow the government to create an enabling environment,” said action-orientated Trentini.

He sees the Steel Master Plan, already signed by representatives of business, labour and government, as being an integral part of the new enabling environment that the government is heralding, and urges all relevant organisations to put their shoulder to the plan’s wheel at its upcoming conference on May 19 and 20.

“It’s not going to create any miracles overnight but it’s the first time that government, through Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel, has come to business to ask what it can do together with labour, to address the challenges that we face as a sector,” he said.

Localisation and designation without having to compromise on cost and quality is the plan’s focus.

“We now know that there are going to be massive increases in the price of steel because of what is happening in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and the price of steel, which is a major input into all of this industry, is a major issue up for discussion,” said Trentini.

Sought will be a way of bridging the gap between the upstream primary steel producers and the downstream fabricators.

“We have to sit down, we have to talk, we have to be honest, and we have to confront the so-called brutal truths if we are going to make progress. If we don't do that, the Steel Master Plan will be another vision that doesn’t see the light of day – and I don’t think we have much time.

“There’s a lot happening in our country and the sooner we start sitting down and rolling up our sleeves and getting our teeth into the various issues that the Steel Master Plan wants to focus on, the better,” Trentini added.

Seifsa will be using the period ahead of the next round of wage negotiations in 2024 to get stuck into what it highlights as ten critical objectives.

In addition to the Steel Master Plan, these include skills development and human capital, transformation, revival and inclusiveness, electricity and energy, import-export and international trade, and talking to the economic cluster about what they see unfolding in the next year to three years.

“I was bitterly disappointed that, at the signing of the Steel Master Plan, Seifsa was the only employer organisation present. Yes, Seifsa is the largest and the most influential, but it’s not the sector's only employer organisation, and I think it’s critically important that all employer organisations play a role because all employer organisations represent their respective constituencies and those remaining outside are doing their constituencies a disservice. We don't have another metals and engineering industry. This is the only one we have. It’s best that everyone comes in to attend and best if everyone brings their sharp minds and their intellect and their creative ideas to try to move this industry forward as quickly as possible, because, I stress, we don’t have a lot of time,” said Trentini.

As Engineering News has reported, the launch of the Steel Master Plan took place amid the constant hum of heavy machinery at Hall Longmore’s factory in Wadeville, Gauteng.

The 80-page document has been published following nearly two years of “robust” talks, facilitated by Dr Bernie Fanaroff, the former trade unionist and leading post-Apartheid government administrator, who also played a prominent role in South Africa’s successful bid to co-host the Square Kilometre Array project.

It has been signed against the backdrop of serious Covid-linked steel supply backlogs.

During the ceremony, Barnes Group director Doron Barnes, whose company acquired steel pipe manufacturer Hall Longmore from Murray & Roberts in 2014, was quoted as saying that he had already witnessed first-hand the power of collaboration, with government’s intervention having played a key role in averting the closure of Hall Longmore and having its equipment relocated to Nigeria.

“It is always easier to complain, blame and criticise rather than to put in a meaningful effort to create sustainable solutions,” Barnes said in his address on the factory floor, adding that the master plan created the platform to “map a way forward” with the support of government.

It was stated that the plan had been developed on three pillars, namely:

boosting demand for steel and steel products, primarily by reviving South Africa’s stalled public infrastructure roll-out; driving localisation, or import substitution; and by leveraging the market access being created through the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement;
addressing supply-side constraints, including electricity disruptions and tariff hikes, logistics bottlenecks, uncompetitive inputs and inadequate skills, and research and development; and
a series of cross-cutting interventions, including the creation of a Steel Industry Development Fund, to be capitalised through the introduction of a levy of between R5/t and R10/t on all steel sold domestically, whether it be produced locally or imported.
“It’s going to be about increasing domestic demand for steel,” Patel explained at the signing.

“The big gains will be made by moving our infrastructure programme from shallow waters to deep waters and to get it moving on a bigger scale and then introducing a localisation requirement not only on primary steel, but also downstream steel.”

Patel reiterated his contention that there was scope for higher levels of localisation, including localisation of steel and metal products and that an accord had been reached at the National Economic Development and Labour Council to drive progressive localisation of up to R200-billion of additional production over a five-year period.

National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa general secretary Irvin Jim, who put his signature to the master plan, argued that the steel industry needed to begin casting its mind beyond being in “survival mode” and use the platform to reverse deindustrialisation and put a stop to the jobs “bloodbath”.