A proTracted dispute between the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC) and the National Employers’ Association of SA (Neasa) over last year’s wage settlement is heading for the Labour Court.
A date for the court hearing is still to be set.
Core to the dispute is the contention by Neasa that the national settlement agreement between the metal and engineering industries and the unions, barring Neasa, excludes certain categories of workers.
The three-year settlement agreement was signed on July 18 last year by the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of SA (Seifsa) and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA after a lengthy national strike over a wage increment.
Neasa argues that the main agreement does not cover the employees between grades A and H. The agreement was referred by the MEIBC to Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant for ratification, who subsequently signed and gazetted it on September 26, last year.
The gazetted agreement made provisions of 7 percent wage increases for grade A and 8 percent for Grade H over three years.
Neasa contends the schedule does not make provisions for grades 7 and 8. It declared a dispute with the MEIBC and requested the matter be referred to a private arbitration, to which the MEIBC agreed.
Neasa says the MEIBC reneged on arbitration and has now taken the matter to the Labour Court for an order rectifying the agreement.
The minister has given notice that she intends to oppose the application.
The application is supported by the employer body, Seifsa and the industries’ six unions, while Neasa is supported by the Plastics Converters’ Association of SA.
In November last year, Neasa lodged a dispute with the MEIBC concerning the constitutionality of the bargaining council.
An arbitrator found in favour of Neasa and the MEIBC agreed to embark on a process to ensure its regional councils are corrected, constituted and appointed; and not later than 14 days after the appointment of regional representatives an annual general meeting of the council would be held to elect new office bearers and a new management committee.
Neasa has deposed an affidavit by its chief executive Gerhard Papenfus, in which he opposes the application.
He says the management committee of the MEIBC has not taken a decision to bring the application nor has it authorised Nick Faasen, the bargaining council’s operations manager, to depose an affidavit.
Papenfus says that he is a member of the management committee representing Neasa and the committee has never considered whether or not to bring the application.
Faasen was not available for comment yesterday.