Confusion reigns about an apparent deadlock reached between the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the motor sector at the Motor Industry Bargaining Council (Mibco).
Irvin Jim, the general secretary of Numsa, said in a statement issued on Tuesday the union had deadlocked with Mibco in the motor sector in the last round of talks.
However, Jakkie Olivier, chief executive of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), said late on Tuesday afternoon that the RMI negotiating team was as surprised as he was about the apparent deadlock.
Olivier said the negotiating parties were busy exchanging settlement packages “as we speak”.
“No official deadlock or dispute has been declared until now, at 3.45pm,” he said.
“The RMI team also confronted Numsa with the statement, who apparently apologised, claimed they were not aware of the statement and that [it was] factually incorrect,” he added.
The motor sector represents about 306 000 workers employed by component manufacturing companies, petrol stations and car dealerships.
In previous negotiations about a new three-year agreement for the motor sector, strikes in particular by workers and automotive component manufacturers resulted in production in vehicle manufacturing plants grinding to a halt because of a shortage of components.
This resulted in a significant loss in vehicle production and exports while also damaging SA’s reputation as a reliable supplier of vehicles into global export markets.
Jim said in the statement the agreement in the motor sector would lapse at the end of this month and Numsa needed to renegotiate new wages and benefits for its members.
He said Numsa had submitted a detailed list of demands but the employers had only responded to one demand in relation to the proposed wage increase.
Jim said Numsa’s demands in the motor sector included a one-year agreement, a 12% across-the-board wage increase, and an industry medical aid with a 60% employer and 40% employee contribution.
“In response to these demands, employers only made an offer of a 4.5% increase across the board. They did not engage meaningfully at all with any of the other demands,” he said.
Now or never
Jim said Tuesday’s meeting was “a last-ditch attempt to find one another”.
“If this fails, then we will have no choice but to register a dispute and strike action is inevitable,” he said.
“If we strike, it will have a major impact on the sector, including the crippling of the supply to the auto sector, in an economy which is performing very poorly.”
The second round of wage negotiations between SA’s vehicle manufacturers and Numsa took place at the end of last month, with the parties still poles apart in their offers and demands. That three-year agreement expired at the end of June.
Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, national spokesperson for Numsa, said at the time the union wanted a 20% wage increase in each year of the three-year agreement and an industry medical aid.
Hlubi-Majola said the Automobile Manufacturers Employers Organisation (Ameo) had offered a wage increase in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) plus 1% in the first year of a three-year agreement, and wage increases of CPI in years two and three of the wage agreement.
Attempts to obtain comment from Numsa on the latest status of the auto sector negotiations were unsuccessful.
Andile Dlamini, a spokesperson for Ameo, said on Tuesday negotiations with Numsa were progressing smoothly and another round of negotiations was taking place this week.