According to a press release issued by Neasa yesterday the current collective bargaining model has failed to benefit anyone in South Africa.   Unless it is completely transformed to adapt to a competitive global environment it will remain a destructive force in our economy.   The government is being encouraged to make some bold decisions.

Press release

The following is a press release by Gerhard Papenfus, the chief executive of the National Employers’ Association of South Africa (Neasa):

Following the NUMSA press conference yesterday, NEASA deems it important that all South Africans be informed of the real state of affairs.

A month before the commencement of the strike, NUMSA made it clear that industrial action was to commence on July 1, 2014.   To suggest then that NUMSA wanted a swift settlement in these negotiations, is suspicious.   It is clear that NUMSA always had an ideological agenda and that they could never sufficiently make that point without a strike.   They made up their minds to strike even before the negotiations began.

From the outset NUMSA demanded a double digit increase.   They’ve made this a mobilising slogan.   The financial capacity of employers was never considered in making this demand, whilst at the same time NUMSA made it an emotional issue.   I challenge NUMSA to immediately make available the ‘scientific analysis’ they boast off.

Not to be outdone by AMCU in the platinum strike, NUMSA is for quite some time now threatening employers with an indefinite strike.   If that is not irresponsible economic blackmail, what is? NUMSA has a militant socialist agenda and they are clearly using this strike to promote that agenda.   Addressing poverty and unemployment, sustainable economic growth, the rightful aspirations of the unemployed and even the real interests of their own members are sacrificed for short term political aspirations.

Whilst we as parties are negotiating within the bargaining council structures, there rests a responsibility on us to negotiate a dispensation that is sustainable, that will stimulate business, stimulate economic growth, attract investment and consequently create jobs; which is the only way that poverty and inequality can be addressed.   But not only that – we need to create a business and social environment that at least create an opportunity to work for those not so fortunate to have a job at all.

NUMSA has made it very clear that they do not want to negotiate these issues at all.   Whilst they create an impression of them fighting for the working class and the poor, their policies and actions achieve exactly the opposite.

The current collective bargaining model, which manifests itself in a far worse form within the Metal Industry, apart from those employees still fortunate to be in employment, and apart from being a powerful political instrument in the hands of super trade unions, is not at all beneficial to anybody or anything else in South Africa.   Therefore, unless the collective bargaining model in South Africa is completely transformed in order to adapt to a competitive global environment, it will remain a destructive force in our economy.   We encourage government to make bold decisions in this regard.

Government calls on the private sector to create jobs; it will however not happen if we, in these negotiations, continue with a dispensation that does exactly the opposite.   So far the negotiating parties have simply kicked this pressing issue, now a national priority, for touch.

At the beginning of these negotiations NUMSA pointed out that this Industry lost 250 000 jobs in 5 years.   The General Secretary of the MEIBC recently indicated that the Industry lost 750 000 jobs; I assume over a longer period.   This is an accusation levelled against what the current bargaining council regime is doing to employment.   My question to NUMSA is this: what do you propose will turn around the slaughtering of business and jobs in this Industry? Thus far you have proposed absolutely nothing.

Just as NUMSA does, NEASA also relies on a mandate from its members.   NEASA’s mandated position is an across the board offer of 8%, a lower entry level wage and measures to create a more flexible dispensation, all aimed at making the Industry more competitive and thereby to stimulate job creation.   The dispensation NEASA proposes does not in any way ‘down vary’, a term often used by NUMSA, the conditions of employment of existing employees.   It is a proposal for discussion to open the door to those who currently are not so fortunate to be employed in the Industry.

I fail to understand why anyone defending these positions is called a racist (by implication), ‘backward’ and a proponent of slave labour.   Your intolerance of the employers’ view, which obviously differs from NUMSA’s view, is surprising; but perhaps not that surprising after all.   Your intolerance is typical of the ‘democracy’ you stand for.

NUMSA makes an issue of the fact that NEASA is critical of collective bargaining and that we are supportive of the Free Market Foundation’s challenge of one particular portion of the Labour Relations Act.   This is no secret.   Unless NUMSA presents an alternative which convinces us that it will give everybody an equal chance in South Africa, will improve the quality of living for everybody, not only its members, which is becoming fewer and fewer as unemployment increases, but also those desperately looking for work, we will pursue our current agenda.   Not challenging the current collective bargaining model which NUMSA so dearly loves, will amount to a betrayal of South Africa.   Bluntly put, South Africa cannot afford the current collective bargaining model and uncontrolled and rampant unionism.

Lastly, NUMSA threatens intensified strike action.   What is meant by that? Does that mean more violence, more intimidation, more damage to properties, more assault of employees who wish to execute their constitutional right to work? Please tell South Africans what is meant by that? Let me put this to NUMSA: without violence this strike will fail.   You do not have the popular support you claim to have, which is the reason for the violence and intimidation.   However, NUMSA can prove me wrong by allowing those workers who want to return to work, to do so unhindered.   This situation will be carefully monitored in the days to come.

Lastly, Mr Jim, I suggest you search your own heart for the evils you accuse others of.   Avoid sowing the seed of racism and hatred, refrain from doing this in order to broaden your popular base; because when that flame starts burning, you may just find yourself very close to the fire.

Gerhard Papenfus