EMPLOYERS in the steel and engineering industry decried the loss of up to R600 million in lost revenue and more R300m in lost wages for workers as the strike which began on October 5 ended yesterday with the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) agreeing to a six percent wage deal with salaries backdate to July 1.
The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA) chief excutive Lucio Trentini said it was regrettable that it took such a long time for an agreement to be made between the parties in what he said had been a bruising time for the sector, which is the pillar of the auto and construction industries.
“That is what happens when you can’t find each other, now we have to work together to grow the sector. This is a commitment we will honour,” Trentini said, responding to (a question) if employers did not find the settlement amount too steep.
At a press conference yesterday, Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said employers, the National Employers Association of South Africa (NEASA) , and the Consolidated Employers Organisation (CEO) had to quickly accede to the new wages that will give workers R52.52 per hour in the first year, R55.67 in the second year and R59.01 in year three.
The union initially demanded 15 percent which has been whittled down to the six percent that will give entry level workers on Grade I, currently at R49.50 an increase to R52.52 in the first year and R55.27 in the second year. Workers on the middle G grade at R51.55 an hour now will go up to R54.75, R58.03 and R61.62 in the third year.
The lowest paid workers will effectively receive an increment of R478 while those on the upper tiers, who will get an increment of between 5 percent and 5.5 percent, will receive an increment of R500.
“We are of the view that six percent on the table is a product of the strike, when the employers who are doubting the masses made unilateral offers to workers and tried to make them sign offers to return to work, it became dry yeast to shift the interest of the workers,” Jim said.
Two workers died during the strike, one after a car ploughed into him as he was on the picket line and another was shot to death.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE