The damaging electricity blackouts have not helped matters. In the course of the vigorous public debates that have followed these bouts of load shedding, there have been moments when the tone of the debates has been deeply worrying. Equally worrying has been the reluctance on the part of some in the Government, notably the President of the country, to accept responsibility for the shameful state of affairs at the power utility, Eskom.
Another deep concern has been the growing number of reported incidents of racism that have taken place in different parts of the country, most notably the Western Cape. Some of these incidents have led to welcome arrests and prosecution, with adverse publicity generated abroad for South Africa.
The country is better off without these unnecessary controversies and diversions from the business at hand. No country in conflict or at war with itself, with its citizens pulling in different directions, can realise its full potential and prosper. The energies expended on these controversies need to be channelled towards working together to get our economy growing.
Despite their many differences, generally South Africans agree that the country has performed terribly when it comes to the economy. Indeed, for a whole host of reasons, economically we are in a terrible state as a country.
We hope for a much better 2015. As usual, this issue of SEIFSA News focuses on how the year is likely to turn out in the respective disciplines that we have as a Federation. Our Economics and Commercial Division has done a great job in its analysis of how the year is likely to turn out. It is, as usual, well thought-out, informed analysis. I encourage you to read it and to reach out to the team, should you need assistance in understanding the likely trends.
Our Price and Index Pages Handbook, which is produced by this Division, continues to have no equal not just in South Africa, but throughout the African continent. Now packed with more valuable indices, the SEIFSA Price and Index Pages Handbook is no longer available for once-off purchases. Instead, it is available only through six-month or 12-month subscriptions.
On both the political and the legislative fronts, 2015 will be another busy year which will see focus placed squarely on matters economical. There will certainly be a lot of drama in the National Assembly and in the provincial legislatures in which the Economic Freedom Fighters are represented, and there will continue to be much emphasis placed on “radical transformation”. With crucial local government elections a year away, the governing party will be seeking to make as much hay while the sun shines by introducing one piece of legislation after another that seeks to advance economic transformation.
That will see the business community facing considerable pressure to expedite the degree to which it is transforming. Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Mzwandile Masina has spoken on various platforms about the Government’s commitment to “creating 50 black billionaires” over the next few years.
Our members, and the business community in general, have to understand any contemplated piece of legislation that has a potential bearing on them so that they can make their voices heard through us and Business Unity South Africa. Similarly, they need to be familiar with legislation passed by Parliament and signed by the President into law in order to ensure that they comply fully therewith. In this regard, our suitably-qualified and experienced Legal Executive stands ready to be of assistance, including in all matters legal.
Our Health, Safety, Environment and Quality Division also has the necessary expertise and experience to help businesses to comply with legislation related to health, safety, environment and quality at the workplace. This includes expertise in the areas of conducting Environmental Impact Assessments and alleviating a company’s impact on the environment.
All of us will no doubt be relieved that there are no wage negotiations confronting us this year, thanks to the three-year Main Agreement Settlement that we reached with the unions last year after a month-long strike in July. At least on the Industrial Relations front, there should be stability in the sector this year.
Given the gazetting of the Agreement by the Minister of Labour on 5 January, the important challenge this year will be ensuring that all employers in the sector comply with the Agreement. To this end, knowing the contents of the Agreement – and not only the sections related to the percentage wage increases – is important. Our experienced Industrial Relations Division, which will be running a series of workshops on the Agreement, stands ready to assist.
Following the Minister’s gazettal, all employers in the metals and engineering industries are required to have a copy of the Main Agreement. SEIFSA has a copy of the Agreement, compiled by people who were intricately involved in the 2014 negotiations, available for purchase.
As always, our Skills Development and Human Capital Division – which houses our renowned, multi-accredited SEIFSA Training Centre – stands ready to help you to develop your most important assets, your employees, and to submit your annual Workplace Skills Plans and Annual Training Reports.
We also have a series of exciting plans for 2015. We start the year with a day-long briefing session focusing on the state of the metals and engineering industries in 2014 and on what can be expected economically and politically in 2015. That is a session not to be missed. A detailed copy of The State of the Metals Industry Report will be launched at that briefing session and sold throughout the year.
More excitingly, we have the inaugural SEIFSA Awards for Excellence taking place at Emperors Palace on 28 May. That evening companies which have excelled in various aspects of business in 2014 will be recognised. Companies that consider themselves to embody excellence are encouraged to enter the awards, which will be adjudicated by an independent panel of experts, and/or to sponsor the different categories. Details are available on www.seifsaawards.co.za.
By far the biggest and most exciting event of the year for the whole metals and engineering sector this year is the inaugural Southern African Metals and Engineering Indaba, which will take place at Emperors Palace on 28-29 May. This is a major regional conference that brings together senior business and labour leaders in the industry and senior policy makers, including Government Ministers, to discuss the challenges facing our sector. We are confident that the conference will go a long way towards advancing the interests of manufacturing in the country.
I encourage you to contact our Marketing and Communications team to establish which sponsorship and exhibition opportunities are still available and to book your attendance. For more information, please go to www.meindaba.co.za.
I am immensely grateful to our visionary founding sponsors – Scaw Metals, ArcelorMittal, Aveng Trident for their support of this important regional conference. I am equally grateful to our media partners – Independent Newspapers, Creamer Media and Promech Publishing – which, by publicising the conference and covering it in detail when it takes place, will give great exposure to our deserving sponsors.
I look forward to seeing you at the SEIFSA Awards for Excellence on 28 May and at the Southern African Metals and Engineering Indaba on 28-29 May.