NATIONAL NEWS - The motor industry – comprising components manufacturers, fuel stations and car dealerships – may soon face a strike that could cripple not only the industry but also motorists, due to a possible fuel shortage.
The pending industrial action was announced by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) which was in dispute with employers at the Motor Industries Bargaining Council (Mibco) over shift allowances and bargaining rights.
The dispute was being mediated by the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
The industry employed more than 300,000 workers who were component makers, petrol attendants and those working in vehicle dealerships. The talks deadlock was declared at end August before the matter was referred to the CCMA for facilitation of a resolution.
Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim accused the employers of being “arrogant”, resulting in the breakdown of talks. The workers were now considering a nationwide strike in the industry.
“We met with an expectation that employers, who are represented by the Fuel Retailers Association of Southern Africa (FRA), the Retail Motor Industry (RMI) and National Employers’ Association of South Africa (Neasa) would engage meaningfully with the demands made by our members. But unfortunately they remain inflexible and as a result talks collapsed. It seems we are headed for a strike,” Jim said.
He said two key issues were outstanding from the talks. Those were the transport/night shift allowance for fuel station workers who worked awkward hours and whose incomes were so low, that it made transportation to and from work very costly.
The second item was the “peace clause” which Numsa said locked workers into a three-year wage deal which they were unable to get out of, including being unable to negotiate benefits and conditions until the agreement expired.
“Furthermore, the bosses cannot justify demanding a peace clause of three years, without also offering to address the working conditions of workers, including critical issues like transport allowance,” Jim said.
“At the mediation employers demanded that we drop our demands on both these issues, because they wanted only to deal with the wage demand. They made it clear that they had no interest in addressing the working conditions of workers. They want a three-year wage agreement, with a 5% wage increase for each year. We reject this offer with the contempt it deserves,” Jim said.
“Since we opened up wage talks, the employers have been arrogant and they continue to demonstrate that they do not care about their employees. And we are not surprised because this racist untransformed industry displays an attitude towards African workers which is reminiscent of the dark days of apartheid,” he said.
The union vowed to intensify the fight. It would give the CCMA space to play its role to facilitate a resolution of the dispute.
“We have arranged formal conciliation on the 30th of September 2019 under the auspices of CCMA, and we are currently negotiating the picketing rules as part of the preparation for that meeting. If conciliation fails then we are well within our rights to request a strike certificate, for an industry-wide shut down,” Jim said.