The meeting took place hours after the SEIFSA Council – made up of Chairpersons of employer Associations affiliated to the Federation – had approved a 10% wage increase for H-level employees in 2014, followed by nine and eight percent increases in 2015 and 2016 respectively, as well as an eight percent increase for A-level employees in 2014 and seven percent increases in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
The 10% adjustment for low-level employees at Rate H represented a whopping 25% move for SEIFSA from its previous offer of eight percent, while the move from the previous seven percent to eight percent for higher-level artisans represents a 14% adjustment.
SEIFSA Chief Executive Officer Kaizer Nyatsumba said that the Federation had approached last night’s meeting full of optimism that the new offer would lead to the conclusion of a deal which would see employees returning to work next week. He said the failure to reach an agreement was deeply disappointing.
He said that the new offer was the very best that SEIFSA could make under these difficult economic circumstances, and it was sweetened by the fact that the Federation’s members had agreed to take their demand for a 50% reduction of entry-level wages off the table.
“We are very deeply disappointed by this turn of events. After a long and heated discussion, the SEIFSA Council had finally come up with a very good offer that we were very confident would be acceptable to NUMSA. Regrettably, however, it would appear that we continue to be miles apart with the union as a result, among other things, of patently political demands about which we can do nothing,” Mr Nyatsumba said.
He said that there was no way that employers in the metals and engineering sector, which was known for its peaks and lows, would accede to NUMSA’s demand to desist from ever using the services of labour brokers.
“NUMSA has taken its opposition to labour brokers and the youth wage subsidy up with the Government and failed to get an outcome to its liking, now the union wants to impose its wishes on employers,” Mr Nyatsumba said.
Mr Nyatsumba said that it had become increasingly clear that NUMSA had approached the negotiations with a political agenda, which it wanted to wage through the guise of negotiations on wages and conditions of employment.
“Regrettably, business is not a player on the political stage. It is evident to us that NUMSA is advancing a political agenda against the ruling party on matters like labour brokers and the youth wage subsidy, and that it has now chosen to bludgeon business into submission on those issues because it could not get its way with the Government,” Mr Nyatsumba said.
He expressed concern that the failure to reach an agreement meant that the strike, which was already characterized by high levels of violence, would continue indefinitely, in the process causing even more damage to the economy.
Mr Nyatsumba revealed that many employers represented by the Federation had reported serious incidents of violence, with some striking workers having broken down factory gates and assaulted people. He reiterated his call on the police to maintain peace and to apprehend those behind the violence.
Mr Nyatsumba said that while SEIFSA would continue to hold one-on-one discussions with the other unions that were active within the metals and engineering sector, it did not have any future meetings planned with NUMSA.