The NUMSA Chief Negotiator indicated that they were in a position to do so, but sought the indulgence of the meeting in order to convene a joint trade union caucus to formulate a consolidated labour position. The meeting agreed to the request and the Facilitator adjourned proceedings.
On the resumption of proceedings, a consolidated labour position was presented to the employers.
Of interest is the revision of the trade unions’ demand on wages from 15% to 12% without conditions (that is, making reference to the 50% reduction on the entry level rates and the link to Section 37).
In response, the employers requested that the position presented on behalf of the trade unions be confirmed in writing so that, on its receipt, they would formulate their response accordingly.
Proceedings on 25 June commenced with a joint employer caucus aimed at formulating a joint employer response to the union position. Apart from the different positions adopted on Wages and Exemptions (and with exemptions the difference is more one of process as opposed to content), unanimity was achieved among all three employer bodies (SEIFSA, NEASA and BIEA) on all remaining matters. On Wages, NEASA is at 7% and BIEA is at 7.4% (both across the board), while SEIFSA is at 7% for Rate A and 8% for Rate H.
On Exemptions, there is unanimity on content (in terms of what employers would like to see incorporated into the existing National Exemptions Policy), but not on process. SEIFSA has accepted the combined union position and the position contained in the Settlement Offer on how the matter should be addressed versus the NEASA and BIEA view that Exemptions and, to a lesser extent, Regional Dispensation must be addressed and resolved as a pre-condition to settlement.
Accordingly it was agreed, after a series of individual and joint employer caucuses, that each employer body would articulate its respective position on both matters.
On returning to the Plenary Session, the SEIFSA position on all the matters – essentially an affirmation of the position set out in the Settlement Offer of 20 June – was presented, with emphasis on Section 37 and our continued desire to conclude discussions on Strike and Picketing Rules.
In response, the unions requested a brief adjournment in order to caucus. On their return from the caucus, the NUMSA Chief Negotiator expressed his disappointment with the employer response and confirmed that, in his view, the parties were still poles apart.
On the linkages to certain conditions, he stressed that from the outset NUMSA had stressed its position on two important principles, namely improving workers’ conditions and no downward variation of conditions of employment. He also indicated that in light of the position adopted by NEASA and BIEA on the matter of Exemptions, it would be pointless to meet on 26 June to deal with IPF Main Agreement Challenges and Exemptions.
He reiterated that the current National Exemptions Policy must be incorporated into the collective agreement as a point of departure, while discussions on Exemptions take place at the IPF. He ended off by confirming that in light of the employer presentations, the process had reached the point where the dispute remained unresolved and the Bargaining Council needed to be requested to issue a certificate on non-resolution of the dispute to the parties.
On the matter of the Strike and Picketing Rules, NUMSA indicated that whilst individual employers were at liberty to conclude individual plant-level agreements, the union would remain available to continue to discuss the possibility of concluding an industry framework even after the certificate on non-resolution has been circulated and 48 hours’ notice of strike action has been issued.
In closing proceedings, the General Secretary of the Bargaining Council confirmed:
- The cancellation of the session of 26 July;
- The issuing of the Certificate of Non-Resolution; and
- The continued availability of the Office and the Facilitator to continue to assist the parties in whatever capacity possible.
The President closed the meeting.
The Main Agreement negotiations now enter the last and most critical stage of the process: that of power play.
The issuing of the Certificate of Non-Resolution of the dispute clearly signals that the unions – but particularly NUMSA – are positioning themselves to embark on industrial action. The Office has received from NUMSA notices of mass marches to the SEIFSA Office and other locations around the country, to take place on Tuesday, 1 July.
At the time of compiling this report, we are expecting to receive the 48-hour notice of strike action to be received before the end of the week. When we receive it, we will, as mandated by the Council, respond with a 48-hour-notice of our intention to implement a lock out.
The sub-committee stage of the negotiations has achieved the objective of closing the gap between the parties. The next move, if any, will determine how quickly we can close the deal and, in so doing, avoid the prospect of a protracted strike action.
As agreed at the Council Meeting on 23 June, it is vitally important for the Chairpersons of the respective Associations to come to the meeting on 30 June with a firm mandate regarding the next stage of the process, in particular the next wage offer that should hopefully avert or end a strike.