The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) welcomes the end of the strike that has affected the metal and engineering sector in the past four weeks, said Seifsa CEO Kaizer Nyatsumba.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) reached an agreement with Seifsa on Monday, whereupon the union called its more than 200 0000 union members to return to work this morning.

The agreement was welcomed by all parties after more than four weeks of strike action, which cost the country up to R300 million a day.

Ten percent increase

NUMSA accepted a deal with Seifsa to secure a 10% increase for its lowest paid members for the next three years.

Nyatsumba expressed relief that employers and labour finally reached an agreement on outstanding matters, particularly on Section 37, which was the major point of difference in the past few weeks.

“We are immensely relieved that the strike is finally over. It is now incumbent on all stakeholders in the metals and engineering sector to work cooperatively together to grow the sector and to ensure that it is internationally competitive. The sector has a very important role to play in the delivery of the Government’s ambitious infrastructure development programme over the next few years, and that can happen only when a strong partnership exists between business and labour,” said Nyatsumba.

Massive victory

NUMSA general secretary, Irvin Jim, said that the offer has been overwhelmingly accepted by all its members, saying that the settlement is a product of sweat and bitter struggles.

“This is a massive victory, given the pittance offer at the point of deadlock,” commented Jim.

Nyatsumba explained that although Seifsa’s preferred wording on Section 37 was not accepted by the union, the federation’s council was satisfied that a compromise wording reached over the weekend would protect companies from two-tier bargaining.

Nyatsumba expressed appreciation to Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant and her team for the major role that they had played in brokering the agreement.

Shuttle diplomacy

Nyatsumba said that the Minister and her team had engaged in shuttle diplomacy between the parties.

“We are grateful to Minister Oliphant for the leadership that she showed in this matter. It is no exaggeration to say that, had she and her team not been involved in the process, the strike may well be continuing,” said Nyatsumba.