PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa recently urged businesses to play a part in reducing rising unemployment, to “try everything they can to avoid retrenchments, and in a way put a moratorium on retrenchments so that (South Africa) can rise from these challenging economic conditions.”
This call by the President and the dire situation South Africa finds itself in, especially as far as unemployment and its socio-economic consequences are concerned, is yet again simply ignored by South Africa’s Steel Federation (Seifsa) and the trade unions in the Steel Industry.
Since 2010 the extension to non-parties of all Seifsa’s SMME hostile agreements were either set aside by the Labour Court or, by means of successful urgent applications, prevented from being extended. In one particular matter the extension was referred to as a ‘sham’, while in another matter the presiding judge remarked that they simply ‘don’t learn’.
They obviously don’t. The fact that Seifsa has proved themselves to be South Africa’s worst collective bargaining negotiator, and notwithstanding the fact that the whole of Seifsa represents a miniscule 10 percent of employers in the Steel Industry, does not deter them from attempting, with the help of the trade unions and the Minister of Labour, to impose their devastating agreements on the rest of the Steel Industry.
The fact that the manufacturing sector, with the Steel Industry being the main culprit, has lost 105 000 jobs in the first quarter of 2018, does not in any way cause Seifsa to realise that they are primarily to be blamed for this job bloodbath. They negotiated entry level wages for the Steel Industry 40 percent higher than the second most expensive industry, and 45 percent higher than the third most expensive industry governed by collective bargaining. This is a track record to be ashamed of.
Seifsa’s irresponsible SMME hostile conduct manifests also in the fact that:
- their big employers are mainly situated in the Gauteng industrial complex, and to a lesser extent Cape Town and Durban, where drastically different economic and operational circumstances prevail, compared to that in rural areas; and
- the cost of labour as a percentage of turnover is up to ten times higher for a small business than a big business.
For eight years NEASA was successful in protecting the Steel Industry against Seifsa’s self-serving onslaught against the Industry’s SMMEs.
We will not let up on this fight. NEASA is currently in the process of preparing an urgent application in the Labour Court to prevent, not only Seifsa’s ill-conceived agreement to be enforced on an already struggling Steel Industry, but to protect South Africa against the socio-economic consequences of the immediate job losses which will follow should the Seifsa hostile agreement be extended to non-parties.
Gerhard Papenfus, Chief Executive of the National Employers’ Association of South Africa (NEASA). He writes in his personal capacity.