The Labour Court in Johannesburg on Thursday granted an interim court order preventing the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC) from requesting Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant to extend the wage settlement agreed to by the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) and trade unions, in July, to nonparties.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and five other unions had accepted Seifsa’s offer of a 10% wage increase for the lowest grades for three years; however, the National Employers’ Association of South Africa (Neasa) had not signed the agreement, arguing that the increase was at an “unsustainable level” and would cause the metals and engineering industry to decline even further.

Neasa had, subsequently, initiated a still-ongoing lockout of workers who had participated in the strike.

“The court’s decision is a major victory for Neasa’s bid to stop the parties from having the Minister extend this detrimental agreement to the whole Industry,” Neasa CE Gerhard Papenfus said.

In its Labour Court application, Neasa had asked for the MEIBC management committee to be declared invalid, as well as for all decisions taken by this committee relating to the request to the Minister of Labour to extend the wage settlement agreement to be declared invalid.
“At the time of signing this agreement, Seifsa’s CEO admitted that Seifsa reluctantly agreed to the agreement and agreed that it will lead to heavy job losses. Seifsa, with the help of primarily Numsa, the MEIBC and the Department of Labour, now attempts to extend this agreement to the rest of the Industry. This is simply ludicrous. We owe it to the metal industry to prevent this from happening,” Papenfus said.

The date to hear arguments to enable the court to make a final decision was set for November 4.