SEIFSA REPRESENTS SMALL AND BIG COMPANIES, AND SEEKS A WIN-WIN DISPENSATION WITH LABOUR
JOHANNESBURG, 12 JULY 2017 – Contrary to propaganda maliciously spread by another employer organisation, the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA) represents both small and big companies in its sector and fights hard to represent their interests, SEIFSA CEO Kaizer Nyatsumba said today.
Responding to a statement issued by NEASA today, Mr Nyatsumba said he found it bitterly disappointing that, following the deadlock in the 2017 wage negotiations in the metals and engineering sector, increasingly NEASA CEO Gerhard Papenfus was “viciously lashing out at everybody and everything, with SEIFSA particularly singled out for his worst propaganda campaign”.
Mr Nyatsumba said that Mr Papenfus appeared to be growing increasingly desperate and, in the process, sought to portray SEIFSA as an organisation that represented big employers in the sector and concluded deals only suitable to them.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. We represent both small and big employers. In fact, the overwhelming majority of our member companies employ no more than 50 people. Therefore, in our approach to negotiations with labour, we always strive to reach a deal that is acceptable to all our members, both small and big,” Mr Nyatsumba said.
He also took exception to Mr Papenfus’s attempts to characterize historic wage settlements in the Metals and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council as having been agreements between SEIFSA and one union, NUMSA.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. SEIFSA, which represents 25 independent employer Associations, has always negotiated and concluded agreements with all the trade unions in this sector, including Solidarty. Although there are currently five unions within the MEIBC, all six trade unions were signatories to the 2014 settlement agreement,” he said.
Mr Nyatsumba stressed that SEIFSA operated strictly in accordance with a mandate from its member Associations which, in turn, get mandated by their members and keep them informed during the negotiations process. The Federation also regularly writes directly to member companies to keep them apprised of developments.
Mr Nyatsumba said that SEIFSA, whose Economics and Commercial Division closely monitors trends within the sector on an ongoing basis, knows only too well the terrible state in which the sector finds itself and is equally – if not more – concerned about it.
“Unlike NEASA, we do not believe that a solution to the challenges faced by the sector can be imposed on any of our stakeholders, including labour. Instead, we believe in working closely with government and labour, as partners, in search of solutions, instead of standing on rooftops and shouting insults at everybody.
“That is why we engage with labour on an ongoing basis, and not only during wage negotiations, and are involved in ongoing efforts to lobby policy makers in the best interests of the sector. Shouting and pointing fingers is easy, but engaging in a search for win-win solutions is another thing altogether,” Mr Nyatsumba said.
He said that, in keeping with the initial mandate from the SEIFSA Council (an assembly of the Federation’s member Associations), SEIFSA had worked closely with other employer organisations – including NEASA – until last week. It will now engage directly with the unions in an effort to avoid industrial action, “which would have a devastating impact on an already fragile sector”.
“We have absolutely no intention of concluding a deal that would worsen the situation, nor do we have a mandate to do so. Instead, in these bilateral engagements we will seek to conclude a realistic settlement acceptable to our members.
“Clearly, it will not be possible to reach a settlement unless it is fair both to our members and to our labour partners. After all, it is in our mutual interest – and, indeed, South Africa’s – that no further job losses occur and that over time the sector becomes more competitive internationally,” Mr Nyatsumba said.
He said that it was unfortunate that, at a time when employers’ efforts should be on reaching an acceptable deal with labour to avoid industrial action, SEIFSA finds itself having to respond to NEASA’s vitriol and to set the record straight.
“For the record, we at SEIFSA have absolutely nothing against NEASA. We do not consider the organisation to be an enemy and have never singled it out for attacks, which is why we worked with it and other employer parties in a joint employer caucus both during this round of negotiations and in 2014. Unfortunately, our two organisations (SEIFSA and NEASA) no longer agree on the best way forward.
“We find it extremely unfortunate that NEASA has again targeted SEIFSA for these wholly unjustified, vitriolic attacks. We have no intention of responding in kind,” said Mr Nyatsumba.
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