Made up of business and labourleaders, the delegates warned that the introduction of carbon tax would impose additional costs to business, harm the economy and impact negatively on jobs at a time when South Africa badly needs more jobs to be created.

Arguing that the country cannot afford carbon taxes, the delegates said that it was vital for the Government to show itself to take stakeholders’ concerns seriously by following Australia’s example and abandoning its plans to introduce carbon taxes.

The Southern African Metals and Engineering Indaba, organized and hosted by the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA), was attended by policy and decision makers, business owners, senior executives and other stakeholders in the metals and engineering sector from across the Southern African Development Community region.

Speaking at the conference, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said that it should be possible for business and labour to work cooperatively together in the interest of South Africa, provided that the underlying issues that have brought about the status quo are addressed.

She said that some of the underlying issues that have resulted in the trust deficit between labour and business were inequalities between top executives and general workers, lack of a direct relationship between business and labour and the belief that democracy seems to be working for business and not the workers.

“Working together cooperatively is not an option but a must if South Africa is to advance its economy and, in the process, create employment,” the Minister said.

NUMSA General Secretary Irvin Jim concurred with the Minister’s statement that it was critically important for business and labour to engage robustly after the 2014 wage negotiations in order to come up with solutions that would grow the economy, revive the manufacturing sector and create much-needed employment.

Speaking on the same panel, Solidarity General Secretary Gideon du Plessis said it was possible for business and labour to work together in the interest of South Africa, but it would not be easy to do so if one took the ideological, cultural and ethical differences between organized labour into account.

SEIFSA Operations Director Lucio Trentini said business and labour were indispensable partners that had no choice but to work together and it was, therefore, of paramount importance that the two find ways to pull together in the interest of the ailing manufacturing sector and in the interest of employment creation.

Former NEDLAC Executive Director Alistair Smith said business and labour have, over the last three decades, demonstrated that the two stakeholder groups can work collaboratively and it was, therefore, possible for the two to find a new path forward.

“It has been done before and it can definitely be done again,” concluded Mr Smith.