The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has embarked on a national strike against the retail motor industry (RMI), demanding that it honours an 8% wage deal agreed to last year.
In KwaZulu-Natal, Numsa members marched to the offices of the Motor Industry Bargaining Council (Mibco), the Department of Labour and the RMI office in Umhlanga on Tuesday.
Numsa national spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said memorandums were handed to Mibco and RMI.
Hlubi-Majola said RMI, which represents approximately 40% of the motor industry, has not honoured the 8% wage agreement reached in January 2019.
The memorandum states that RMI’s disregard for the agreed rules led to Mibco being on the brink of collapse.
“This bargaining council has seemingly abandoned its responsibilities and it now clearly serves the interests of the employers in the industry, instead of fulfilling its central role of facilitating all stakeholder interests.”
Numsa demanded that the council must meet to reconstitute itself, that they ratify – vote to accept or reject – the wage agreement that was signed by RMI and that RMI ceases to interfere in the process to appoint the general secretary of the council.
In an interview on eNCA, Basil Cele, the first deputy president of Numsa, said workers did not receive their increase as expected in September.
Cele said the bargaining council collapsed last year because there was a number dispute with regard to the vote.
“This bargaining council does not have a general secretary for the past three years, they (RMI) are blocking the process of appointing the general secretary. We need a person who will be able to make decisions,” he said.
Numsa said employees have suffered because of the actions of RMI, who have shown a disregard for workers and their families.
RMI chief operating officer Jan Schoeman said RMI subscribes to the important role that Mibco plays in regulating conditions of employment in the retail motor industry. RMI alone cannot ratify the wage agreement he said.
“It requires a resolution by the Motor Industry Bargaining Council of which the RMI is only one of four parties,” said Schoeman.
Schoeman further explained that Mibco is in the process of convening a general meeting of councillors to make a decision about the agreement.
He also noted that the agreement was not signed in January 2019, but rather in January 2020 after RMI requested that Numsa sign.
“The RMI eventually placed Numsa on terms to sign the agreement to avoid any further delays,” said Schoeman.
According to Schoeman, Numsa has since the 2019 annual general meeting of Mibco, deliberately disrupted the functioning of the council.
He said this has resulted in Mibco not being able to conclude the formalities associated with the ratification of the wage agreement.
Schoeman added that Numsa severely disrupted last year’s meeting forcing an adjournment. This happened in the presence of officials of the Department of Employment and Labour he said.
“RMI stands by the agreement concluded in January 2020 and will urge its members to implement without delay, once it has been ratified by Mibco and published in the government gazette by the Department of Employment and Labour,” said Schoeman.
He said many employers have implemented the increases on a voluntary basis due to strong employment relationships at plant-level.
“Numsa represents less than 25% of the employees in the industry. We need to clarify that there is not a standard 8% increase for all employees. This percentage only applies to a small portion of the industry.”
Schoeman said the majority of employees in the industry will only receive a 5% increase.
The union has given RMI until 10 November to respond to the memorandum of demands.
“Failing which Numsa will continue with its marches and pickets to demand what is in the interest of its members,” said Numsa.
Mibco did not respond to a request for comment.