Held at the end of August this year, members from around the country gathered through a virtual meeting to discuss various association information, listen to, and engage with the guest speaker, and further talk generally about the state of the industry.
Opening the event, president of the South African Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association (SARACCA), Hennie Basson greeted and welcomed members and attendees to the national meeting.
The branch chairmen were given the opportunity to greet and welcome members in their specific regions. The chairs Tony Moodley (KZN), David Botha (GP) and Jacques Claassen (WC) collectively thanked members for taking the time to attend the national meeting and further get the opportunity to learn something new and gain insight from the guest speaker for the event.
Basson then handed over to guest speaker – Marius Landman, a labour consultant and industrial relations specialist who presented information to members about job grading for the sector. Landman also has extensive experience dealing with the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA) and the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC).
Landman’s presentation offered a thorough discussion of the grading systems that govern the industry while being legally binding, also may be difficult and complicated for business owners to understand. Essentially grading systems are applied for employees doing specific work in a particular environment that are subject to a set wage per hour. Job grading also involves inclusion of the tasks an employee will undertake which may be on a weekly or monthly basis.
The presentation included the importance for employers to ensure the correct grading of employees according to their appointed role as some may have additional skills such as welding or forklift operation, however if their sold role is to clean, their grading should be aligned to that. Similarly, to protect employees being underpaid if an employee is graded as a driver but in between waiting for deliveries is cleaning and completing other tasks, his grading (and remuneration) would naturally need to be different. Discrepancies would come out through an assessment undertaken and so it is critical that each role players knows exactly what their job and responsibilities are, and are recorded according to the standard Main Agreement, to avoid such disputes or arbitration.
Landman further covered several scenarios he had experienced over the last 35 years of his career to illustrate the possible outcomes of job grading in the positive and negative, including overpayment and underpayment situations. He also noted that the grading exercise employers go through drives the job function (what the employee must do to complete his daily or monthly tasks, which is commonly misunderstood by business owners).
A robust engagement continued by members putting forward various questions to Landman where they also discussed two different grading systems, one being the 13 grade system (category of wage) and a 5 grade system, and the practicality of which system would best be suited to the HVACR sector for simplicity and fairer balance for business owners who are often burdened with salary bills whether they have work for a particularly graded employee or not, and are limited to the tasks they could issue such employees under difficult economic times. Employee mix was also addressed as a solution to certain scenarios.
The presentation further highlighted some interesting points for the business sector to be aware of such as falsified employee documents (in order to qualify for a higher wage category), the current average age of artisans in South Africa is between 48 and 62, the ongoing shortage (and decline) of artisanal employees alludes that within 15 years and without any changes the country will be without any, and this then leads to a future having to balance against the international rates paid for these skills. This situation is also the conundrum for business owners – when they do upskill staff through various training programmes internally or externally themselves, although getting some money back, employees often leave to go to other companies.
Moving on from the presentation, finance feedback for the association was addressed by director Barney Richardson, who reported that all was going well except for some members who continued to be affected by various pandemic related positions. New members/re-issued memberships were also tabled.
The regional chairmen then discussed their views on their outlook for the industry – all noting that trading conditions were still slow around the country and the ongoing pandemic and lockdown situation was well set into the sector. The feedback also noted that companies have resorted to grabbing any work they can as ‘competitiveness had reached horrible levels’ further leading to companies diversifying as best possible to keep business afloat with continual low margins as another major concern ‘that could bring down the entire industry’ and ‘to levels where businesses can’t compete because of zero profitability’. The recent looting debacle in the Kwa-Zulu Natal province also caused further stress onto the sector as even tenders have slowed, and many companies remain closed.
The recently concluded new national skill programme manual was also discussed and the progress on the additional ammonia portion of the material is currently gaining input from various industry companies involved in ammonia refrigeration as this is a fairly new subject matter for training (the F-Gas portion was re-written from previous/existing material).
Concluding the event, Basson thanked all member and participants and wished all well until the next meeting to be held.