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NUMSA, ArcelorMittal wage negotiations reach deadlock

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WAGE negotiations between African steel producer ArcelorMittal South Africa (Amsa) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) have reached a deadlock.

This comes after NUMSA served the steel producer with a 48-hour notice to strike on May 9.

“We have been engaging in wage talks under the auspices of the Metals and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC) since March and we have deadlocked with the employer,” said NUMSA in a statement.

The steel producer confirmed that it tabled a final wage increase offer of 5% across the board on all remuneration elements and a 2% cash-back equivalent from gross payments

However, NUMSA has rejected the company’s offer of a 5% increase and said it was planning an ‘indefinite strike’ from Wednesday.

Numsa said it rejected the offer from management as ArcelorMittal SA made a profit of more than R37 million in 2020.

NUMSA, which initially demanded a 15% wage increase, is now demanding a 10% increase across the board.

This includes a housing allowance, 80% medical aid contribution from the employer and the discontinuation of labour brokers.

The union also demands that temporary employees be insourced and paid a salary with benefits.

According to NUMSA workers at the steel company have not had meaningful increases in the past two years.

“For 2020 and 2021 workers were given a two percent increase and this was imposed on them in 2021. Amsa [is] claiming in their propaganda that they have the best pay scales in the sector … Our members are struggling to make ends meet, whilst the greedy bosses rake in obscene profits,” said NUMSA.

ArcelorMittal South Africa CEO Kobus Verster said in a statement that the company made the final offer of 7% at the bargaining council last week on Thursday.

“The timing of the strike notice suggests that the company’s revised offer has not been shared with Numsa members by the union, which is disappointing. We believe the company’s offer is fair and takes into account both the current economic conditions and the future sustainability of the business,” said Verster.

Verster said the company’s offer was higher than the average of 5.5% increases in the rest of the steel sector.

“Numsa disputes this fact but has to date not presented any factual evidence to the contrary … The company is concerned that unsustainable increases in base pay will lead to cost pressures which will weaken our competitiveness. Our industry remains very cost-sensitive, challenging and volatile. To survive and be sustainable, we need to ensure that our cost base remains competitive so that we can manage through the downturns,” Verster said.

The company, majority owned by Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal, had 7 133 permanent workers at the end of 2021, its latest annual report showed.

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