By the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa

SEIFSA has welcomed the Labour Court’s decision to dismiss the urgent application brought by NEASA and SAEFA to halt the extension of the MEIBC wage deal.

SEIFSA LogoSEIFSA CEO Lucio Trentini said: “In the eyes of the court, this application should never have been brought forward in the first place. This matter, the court concluded, was nothing more than an ill-fated attempt at an artificial construct to get out of the main agreement.”

The National Employers Association of South Africa (NEASA) and the National Employers Association of South Africa (NEASA) went to court in an attempt to block the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC) and unions from extending the wage agreement to non-parties.

The MEIBC had agreed in June to ask the labour minister to extend the agreement, which was when NEASA and SAEFA launched their urgent application in the Labour Court.

Trentini is clear on SEIFSA’s position on collective bargaining, saying it “is a cornerstone of the system and the reduction of disproportionate income differentials is one of its purposes.”

For the Labour Court, NEASA and SAEFA were unsuccessful because they, “failed to make out a proper case,” leading Judge Sean Snyman to dismiss their application with costs.

Trentini says that since 2011 all attempts to extend the main agreement of the MEIBC have been thwarted – first by just NEASA and later by SAEFA too. “This has left the untenable situation that non-parties to the metal and engineering industry, being the industry over which the MEIBC presides, are not bound by what had been negotiated and agreed to at industry level for the whole industry.”

Judge Snyman was clear in his assessment: “This kind of conduct is not in the interest of an orderly and effective bargaining council whose very purpose it is to take care of an industry. It is tantamount to eroding the MEIBC from within.”

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In any event, Trentini added: “This deal marks a watershed moment in the collective bargaining relationship between employers and trade unions. The latest main agreement allows employers to grant increases on a Rand and Cents amount calculated on the minimum gazetted rates for each grade of employee, a practice last seen thirty-years ago.”

“The latest agreement contains various exemption arrangements to accommodate employers struggling in the current business climate and for employers, who may have been operating outside of the main agreement scope for the last ten years, a special phase-in dispensation to reach sixty-percent (60%) of the 2020 minimum rate of pay by 30 June 2024 – in practice this equates to a target rate of pay for a general labourer of R 29,73 p/h or R 5000 per month to be reached by 30 June 2024.”

“This is an unprecedented concession agreed to by all the trade unions in an effort to persuade employer bodies like NEASA and SEIFSA, who together represent less than 25% of all employees employed by all the employer organisations on the bargaining council, to support the underlying principles underpinning collective bargaining and more importantly its outcomes.”

“Resorting to litigation and court actions is not only futile, time-consuming and costly but it does very little to create an enabling environment with one of industry’s major stake-holders – namely organised labour – to deal with the real conversations about what we could be doing together to tackle the real and underlying challenges facing our industry, employers, who day-in and day-out face enormous challenges and make untold sacrifices to keep their doors open and the over 200 000 workers who spend eight hours or longer each day to keep the wheels of industry turning.”

Trentini concludes: “The employee parties to the MEIBC stand to suffer a whole lot more than any prejudice NEASA and SAEFA members stand to suffer. As NEASA and SAEFA are the only two minority organisations versus the 19 employer organisations, who represent in excess of 60,7% of all employees employed by all the employer organisations on the bargaining council, it is only their members who would benefit. This is unduly prejudicial and unfair to the industry as a whole and, in particular, the objectives all bargaining councils are designed to achieve.”

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