Members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa.

  • The National Union of Metalworkers said it has referred a mutual interest dispute with the Metallurgical and Mechanical Bargaining Council to Samancor.
  • While the union is demanding a 15% wage increase, the company has offered the union 6%.
  • The company said the National Union of Mineworkers, UASA and Solidarity, which represent 79% of the company’s workforce, accepted their offer.
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The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) is on the brink of strike action at chrome mining and smelting company Samancor after the union and the company reached an impasse in wage negotiations.

The union, which has the majority of members at Samancor, said it had referred the dispute to the Metallurgy and Engineering Bargaining Board (Meibc) last weekend.

Numsa is demanding a 15% wage increase across the board; that Samancor’s lowest paid workers earn 7,000 rand after deductions; and 100% medical care coverage.

The company says most unions have accepted the 6% pay offer and hopes dispute resolution mechanisms at Meibc and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) will help break the impasse.

READ | Numsa will not give up its 20% demand in car wage negotiations

Numsa said in a statement that workers were “moving the sector during the Covid-19 pandemic” but the employer would not comply with wage demands “properly”. The union said it remains open to breaking the impasse if the employer comes forward with a “significant” offer.

“We await the issuance of the strike certificate. In the meantime, we will mobilize our members for a complete shutdown of all smelters at Samancor. It is unfortunate that we have to consider this as an option, but the arrogance of management has prompted this response,” the statement said.

Numsa said in a statement that it was on the verge of a strike at Samancor after it launched the controversial process.

“We have initiated a mutual interest dispute that has been addressed with Meibc because the management of Samancor is not negotiating in good faith. The annual salary agreement ended at the end of June this year,” the statement reads.

Numsa said in a statement that after a long period of silence, Samancor “offered a 6% carrot directly to members” but did not make the offer official during negotiations.

“They took it to friends and it was accepted by Solidarity and the NUM [National Union of Mineworkers]. All other issues raised by our members, they did not deal with at all. Instead, they are introducing a 6% increase and refusing to deal with other pressing issues,” the statement said.

READ | Numsa wants double-digit pay rise in car talks – even if it means strike action

Numsa general secretary Irwin Jim said Samancor’s offer and the way the employer dealt with it was a provocation by Numsa.

“We have an obligation to abandon that principle if an employer thinks they can just impose whatever raise they want. If today it is 6%, then next year it may be 2%. Samancor bosses are undermining the principle of collective bargaining. with this behavior and it needs to be stopped,” Jim said.

Samankor said in an email correspondence that 79% of the company’s employees are members of NUM, Solidarity and UASA. The company said those unions accepted wage increases and additional benefits.

“It is very unfortunate that Numsa misrepresented the facts in their report. No strike certificate has been issued and Samancor Chrome hopes that the official processes at both Meibc and CCMA will follow their course,” the company said.

Samancor Chrome said it remains committed to honoring its commitments and ensuring that all employees benefit from the pay agreement.

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