Legal fund is a desperate attempt to force through the deal.
A war of words is currently waging between employer bodies in the engineering and metal industries, with the mud-slinging centering on the wage negotiations, which were concluded separately from all negotiating parties by the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA) and the trade unions in August this year.
“The goal leading up to the 2017 wage negotiations was to ensure that an inclusive deal was reached, representing the interests of employer and labour bodies equally,” says David Anderson, newly appointed South African Engineers and Founders Association (SAEFA) chairperson.
“Mediation and arbitration specialist Johnny Goldberg was brought on board by our association as a lead negotiator on behalf of all employer bodies in good faith, with the intention to ensure an inclusive negotiation process for all parties.”
This inclusive process was cut short when SEIFSA and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) engaged in bilateral negotiations and signed their own wage settlement agreement.
The majority of employers in the industry are not in favour of this deal because, not only were their representative associations excluded, but it failed to take into account critical employer demands that were tabled to address the dire need for job creation in an industry that has been steadily bleeding jobs.
SAEFA does not see this agreement being extended to non-parties, which means employer and labour bodies will need to return to the negotiating table at the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC) in order to conclude an inclusive deal.
Agreement is non-binding
Despite this, SEIFSA-affiliated associations have been asked to contribute to a legal fund to facilitate the submission of this agreement to the Labour Minister. This is an attempt to have it extended to the entire industry – including employers who were neither party to the negotiation of it, nor signatories. NUMSA have also agreed to contribute to this legal fund.
External legal opinion sought by SAEFA agrees that the SEIFSA-NUMSA wage settlement agreement cannot legally be extended to non-parties and that the request for serious legal intervention to do so, two-and-a-half months after the deal was concluded, reinforces this stance.
It is estimated that the legal funding being requested runs into millions of rands. SAEFA believes a negotiated settlement would be in the best interests of collective bargaining. Furthermore, this fund would not be necessary had the employer bodies remained at the negotiating table to conclude an inclusive deal.
The South African Engineers and Founders Association represents the interests of hundreds of member companies in the metal and engineering industry. Members range in size from small employers to large multinational organisations. SAEFA recently de-federated from the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (SEIFSA).
For more information visit www.saefa.org.za