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The National Employers Association of South Africa (NEASA) has taken note of news reports indicating that SEIFSA’s latest wage offer of 10% has been rejected. SEIFSA has offered NUMSA and other trade unions a three year deal with increases amounting to 10, 9.5 and 9% on the lowest grades. SEIFSA repeatedly went back to the unions with improved offers, in the process giving away each and every demand they put on the negotiating table, thus far without any success.

NEASA, representing 3000 mainly small and medium business in the Metal Industry, is still offering 8%, subject to an agreement on a lower entry level wage in respect of the lowest grade, as well as an arrangement which will make the Industry more flexible. Thus far NUMSA has refused to engage at all on these issues.

I am saying this to SEIFSA: this is your test. South Africa is a spectator in a drama, day by day observing how you negotiate this Industry into extinction. You have already given away increases respectively 3.4, 2.9 and 2.4% above the inflation rate for three years, with nothing in return. You must be extremely disappointed that your negotiating partner, NUMSA, is doing this to you,’ says Gerhard Papenfus, NEASA Chief Executive.

For two decades your weak approach has done irreparable damage to this Industry. You were doing this whilst you represented less than 20% of the employers in the Metal Industry, thus a hopeless minority organisation, but you did this merely because you had the support of trade unions and big business, or rather yielded under the pressure of both. In this process you have betrayed the interests of small business,’ Papenfus said.

An arbitration, following a dispute declared by SEIFSA against NEASA, continues on 4 August 2014. The outcome that SEIFSA wants is a dispensation which weakens the voice of SMME’s serving on the Metal Industry Bargaining Council.

In pleasing NUMSA and big business you have turned against SMME’s in South Africa. You have in fact also turned against the interests of the economy and the poor which cannot find work in this Industry,’ Papenfus said.

I wish to remind you of what Winston Churchill once said: ‘An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last’. I also wish to remind you of a more recent remark by former Planning Minister Trevor Manuel: ‘There is no counterweight in society if you have cowards in business. You don’t have to keel over every time someone stands up and says ‘I disagree’, says Papenfus.
Papenfus says NEASA will not stand by passively while SEIFSA throws away the future of SMME’s, the Industry and the economy at the negotiating table.

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Sya van der Walt-Potgieter
Media Liaison