In an unprecedented move, Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA) Chief Executive Officer Kaizer Nyatsumba and his counterpart at the National Employers Association of South Africa (NEASA), Gerhard Papenfus, expressed grave concerns about recent Labour Court judgments regarding Section 37. They demanded that the section be amended to confirm its original intention, when the clause was introduced into the Main Agreement in 1992, that all matters which could materially add to the cost of employment would be negotiated collectively in the Bargaining Council.
Section 37 protects employers from having to engage in substantive negotiations at plant level, once a deal has been concluded on wages and related conditions of employment at national level.
The two CEOs said that the words that they wanted added into the clause were the ones in bold: “…The Council is the sole forum for negotiating matters contained in the Main Agreement and those related to the cost of employment. During the currency of the agreement, no matter contained in the agreement or which may impact on the cost of employment may be an issue in dispute for the purposes of a strike or lock-out or any conduct in contemplation of a strike or lock-out.”
“SEIFSA and its member Associations are proponents of collective bargaining and remain implacably opposed to double dipping through two-tier bargaining. We believe that the challenge posed by the Van Niekerk judgments require all of us to reconfirm our commitment to collective bargaining by strengthening the original intentions of Section 37,” Mr Nyatsumba said.
NEASA and SEIFSA also strongly condemned the violence that has been perpetrated by some of the employees currently on strike. Mr Papenfus said that while workers’ rights to go on strike were respected, there was absolutely no room for violence.
“We condemn the current violence in the strongest possible terms and call on the police to arrest those perpetrating it and protect those on whom it is visited. We also call on the leadership of the unions to call on their members to desist from violence,” Mr Papenfus said.
“All rights go with responsibilities, and the same applies to the right to strike. Violence and other reprehensible, criminal acts during a strike action cannot be condoned and should be punishable by law,” Mr Nyatsumba said.