The Labour Court on Friday heard final arguments in the National Employers Association of SA’s (Neasa’s) bid to interdict any extension of a wage agreement signed between six trade unions and other employer bodies represented in the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council in July after a four-week strike by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and five other unions.

BDLive published a report today Metal-sector wage dispute set to drag on concerning the ongoing battle in the labour court over the right to force small employers to comply with agreements concluding by certain members of the council.

Further extracts from the report

A DISPUTE over a wage settlement in the metal and engineering industry is set to drag on as both sides in a court battle have vowed to appeal against an unfavourable judgment.

Neasa said it was sidelined during the latter part of negotiations, when the wage deal, including increases of up to 10%, was agreed to, even though this was unaffordable.

It said a deal should have come with commitments to grow the sector, which rivals the mining sector on direct contribution to SA’s gross domestic product. Neasa’s opponents, however, said most of the nearly 300,000 workers covered by the council were behind the deal.

. . . .

Neasa is the largest employer association by number of businesses, but Seifsa represents more employees. Seifsa’s numbers — which are contested by Neasa — meant that an agreement between it and Numsa was sufficient to end the strike.

The labour minister has the power to extend a wage agreement to nonparties — even if they are in the majority — if signatories to an agreement are deemed to be sufficiently representative.

Neasa has argued that the October meeting at which the bargaining council members voted to extend the agreement was improperly constituted and unconstitutional.

It said Seifsa was not representative of employers and contested figures given by the bargaining council in a request to formally extend the agreement to all employers.

Labour Court Judge Hilary Rabkin-Naicker reserved judgment on Friday but noted the urgency of the matter.