NEVER UNDER-ESTIMATE THE POWER OF THE NEGATIVE
By now you will no doubt have had at least one of NEASA’s ever-wailing newsletters clogging your in-box since SEIFSA member Associations successfully concluded a three-year Settlement Agreement with all the industry trade unions in August. Those of us concerned about certainty and stability in the metals and engineering sector were pleased that such a settlement could be reached without even a single day lost to industrial action. After all, this is only the fourth three-year Agreement in SEIFSA’s 74-year history and the very first one concluded without industrial action in the past 10 years.
In its own eyes, NEASA has a special understanding of the dynamics of the metals and engineering industries. Its boring refrain is both simple and simplistic: “All our economic pain comes from SEIFSA”.
The organisation is simply incapable of advancing its agenda, such as it is, without reference to SEIFSA. It is as if SEIFSA is its currency.
There is little wonder, then, that when one objectively surveys almost twenty (20) years of NEASA’s participation on the Metals and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council, the only unbroken thread that can be discerned from its participation is its extraordinary and spectacular record of not having achieved a single thing for its constituency.
Zero. Zilch. Nada. Niks.
Given that, despite its ever shrill voice and the insults routinely hurled at all and sundry, NEASA has failed to secure any of its key objectives over the years, surely it is time for a rethink? In particular, NEASA needs explicitly to provide substance to its claims, to explain many of its bizarre actions and to inform all sobre-minded South Africans exactly what it would like SEIFSA, industry and other stakeholders to buy into and how its goals can be accomplished practically. In other words, let’s get to see the organisation’s vision for the future.
It is easy to criticize, to engage in penny-pinching and to throw barbs, but doing so without advancing any reasonable and constructive alternative is intellectually bankrupt.
Instead of distancing itself from the Bargaining Council, the unions and industry role players, NEASA needs to decide where it stands on the collective bargaining front, industry institutions and the ideals of fair, decent and collegial engagement.
NEASA’s biggest failing is that it usually knows roughly what it is against, but has absolutely no credible positive programme to define and realise concrete policy objectives.
NEASA claims to know all the ills that befall our industry, routinely bemoaning the role of SEIFSA, the trade unions, the Bargaining Council, Government and big business. The organisation excels at pointing fingers at anyone and everyone – except for itself! In our view, no organisation could possibly be more guilty of hypocrisy, short-sightedness and opportunism in equal measure.
NEASA claims to know where some of the sector’s problems come from:
- the often- repeated but factually incorrect “cosy relationship” between business (by which it means SEIFSA) and the trade unions;
- the assertion that collective bargaining has been usurped by scary ogres called “Captains of Industry”, at the expense of poor, helpless SMMEs; and
- the preposterous allegation of illegal deals being concluded in the course of industry collective bargaining processes.
The organisation has absolutely no shame. Its allegations get more outlandish and weirder and weirder by the day. The trouble is that NEASA has no real idea what to do to remedy any of these real or imagined problems. It attacks all and sundry, but has no equivalent philosophy concretely to get these issues addressed.
For the record:
- SEIFSA operates strictly in accordance with a mandate from its 23 member Associations; and
- SEIFSA represents all employers, both BIG and SMALL.
The vast majority of companies that are members of our Associations are small: a whopping 66% of our collective member companies employ fewer than 50 people. Therefore, contrary to NEASA’s nauseating, self-serving propaganda, we always have the best interests of all employers at heart, including small employers who represent two-thirds of our constituency.
Regrettably, we cannot but liken NEASA’s behaviour to that of North Korean dictator Kim Jung-un. Like the Korean dictator, NEASA excels at sabre rattling and declaring imaginary wars, but is very poor when it comes to searching for lasting solutions.
So, dear reader, never under-estimate the power of the negative. Scare tactics tend to resonate. As President Bill Clinton commented after the November 2016 US election that voted Donald Trump into office: “It’s highly complicated: people don’t like negative, divisive environments – but they frequently reward them in elections.”
As French philosopher Voltaire put it: “I disapprove of what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
Accordingly, we detest NEASA’s divisive bile, but we will defend the organisation’s right to spew it. We do caution very strongly, though, that you, dear reader, do not swallow it holus-bolus.
Kaizer M. Nyatsumba Lucio Trentini
Chief Executive Officer Operations Director