The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) has threatened a secondary strike in the automotive sector over a dispute resulting from attempts by a components company to cut jobs and switch bargaining councils.
On January 12, Numsa members downed tools at Pretoria-based Giflo Engineering, citing an increase in working hours and cuts to hourly pay.
“The strike has been triggered by Giflo’s unilateral decision to cut workers rates of pay including the adjustment of working hours, from 40 hours to 45 hours per week,” the Numsa statement said.
“This decision by the company to cut workers’ rates of pay, including the adjustment of working hours, was overwhelmingly rejected by workers through a democratic and transparent process. It was rejected on the basis that the employer did not comply with wage increases for workers as agreed with the employer bodies; whilst on the other hand senior employees were given excessive wage increases in July 2014.”
“This strike has been imposed on workers by the employer; they can’t just cut workers hard won rights of pay through collective bargaining.”
The company maintains it implemented the changes after more than a year of discussions over possible retrenchments. About 230 employees went on strike.
Argent Industrial is the majority shareholder of Giflo Engineering, trading as Excalibur Vehicle Accessories, which manufactures components such as roll bars and seat frames.
Numsa regional secretary Jerry Morulane said no decision on a secondary strike had been taken.
Numsa has said the decision was unilateral. It has rejected any job cuts after resolving that changes to working conditions and job losses were not driven by market conditions.
Argent Industrial group CEO Treve Hendry said the impasse was unfortunate, and that it came after 14 months of negotiations with Numsa.
The company had sought to switch councils and join its counterparts in the industry to improve its competitiveness, he said. The company had made available all of its financial details, Mr Hendry said.
Numsa said that despite the change of bargaining council, such national agreements still served as minimums, and that employers were still required to reach agreement with employees.
A wage agreement that was reached, effective for September 2014, had not been implemented, except for some employees, Mr Morulane said.