The strike that the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) threatens the entire metal and engineering industry with – the reason for which includes, among others, a 15% wage increase backdated to 1 July 2017 – will undoubtedly harm rather than benefit workers, according to Charles Castle, Manager of the Labour Law Advice Unit at AfriBusiness.
The unfortunate events that unfolded over the past year – especially the proposed draconic mining charter, more stringent broad-based black economic empowerment policies, detrimental economic policies, a possible significant increase in electricity tariffs – in conjunction with the planned strike will cause more job losses than ever before, specifically in the metal and engineering sector. The possible massive retrenchments at AngloGold Ashanti are examples of what workers may have to face if there is no economic turnaround and NUMSA and its leadership do not come to its senses.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has already estimated the economic growth of South Africa for 2017 to be a mere 1%. If NUMSA continues with its strike, the sector should expect more retrenchments and job losses – which South Africa cannot afford at this stage with a current unemployment rate higher than 27%.
“We understand the economic difficulties that employees in these sectors face. Considering the current economic situation of South Africa, it is irrational and unjust to employers and workers alike to embark on a strike as a result of unreasonable demands,” says Castle.
Employers will be left with no other alternative but to commence with retrenchments as a result of affordability and profit margins.