Neasa has expressed fears that a dispute between employer bodies in the ‘engine-room of manufacturing in SA’ (the metal & engineering sector) could harden attitudes and fuel industrial action.

There is a serious rift and some hostility in relations between the major employer parties to the MEIBC (Metal & Engineering Industries Bargaining Council). It appears that Seifsa (Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of SA) may have collaborated with six trade unions on the MEIBC and extended part of a three-year wage agreement ending in mid-2014 without the agreement of Neasa (National Employers’ Association of SA), another employer body representing SMEs (small and medium-size industries).

The article by Mark Allix ‘Bullying by Seifsa’ a threat to wage talks first appeared in Business Day on Friday and I am allowed to publish extracts but the entire article should be read by going to Business Day or clicking on the above link.

“THE National Employers’ Association of SA (Neasa) has accused another employer body, the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of SA (Seifsa), of bullying small and medium-size industries (SMEs) in the metals and engineering sector over the most recent industry wage agreement.”

“Neasa claims there is no legal requirement for its member companies in the sector to adhere to the second part of a three-year wage agreement ending in mid-2014, which sets wage increases of 7% and 8% for skilled and unskilled workers respectively.”

“However, Neasa, with about 10% of members in the metals and engineering sector, says it is contesting only a technical point, and is not encouraging its members to flout the agreement.”

“Instead, it says it is seeking legal clarity on why its members should comply after it had not signed the agreement concluded between Seifsa and six unions through the statutory Engineering Industries Bargaining Council, although it also sits on the council.”

“It also contests the legal basis by which the minister of labour subsequently extended the agreement to all parties. But Seifsa says Neasa’s actions may lead to a perception that workers will not receive their annual wage increases, and this could destabilise the sector.”

“Earlier this week, Seifsa issued an urgent notice stating ‘notwithstanding conflicting statements issued by Neasa’, the industry’s wage increases ranging from 7% to 8% remain effective and all member companies were urged to implement these with effect from July 1.”

“’There is no doubt (the current bargaining system) is hostile to SMEs,’ Gerhard Papenfus, CEO of Neasa, said yesterday.”

“He said this arrangement was protected by government, and that the bargaining council was also not a neutral party in the issue.”

“In an earlier statement yesterday, Mr Papenfus, said the council was the ‘engine-room of manufacturing in SA’, but was dominated by an ‘unholy and unhealthy’ relationship between dominant trade unions, on one part and SA’s largest industries on the other side.”