Outages, rate hikes and increasing inflation is having a devastating impact on the metals and engineering sector. The impact has seen a sharp rise in the number of business closures and job losses, with some sub-sectors being hit harder than others.
The pressure on the economy is captured in the latest unemployment numbers showing the official joblessness rate having increased to 32.9%. Overall, labour participation is below 60% and GDP growth of just 0,2% with downside risks expected. South Africa Inc. is facing an unprecedented crisis on the eve of the next round of collective bargaining in 2023.
All parties would readily acknowledge that a strong and sustainable metals and engineering sector is in all our interests. The Government has placed manufacturing and specifically this sector at the centre of the economic recovery plan. Protecting jobs and the future of plants in addition to boosting demand through unlocking infrastructure projects and funding for manufacturers is vital if this industry is going to survive.
The metals and engineering sector is strategic in its support of supply chains for vital sectors of our economy, such as the automotive, motor, construction, mining to name but a few. These and other interrelated sub-sectors are crucial to sustaining thousands of employers and their employees.
The challenge for the negotiating partners, and to those from whom they obtain their mandates, is whether the parties can find it within themselves to rise above their own entrenched positions and put the interests of the metals and engineering sector – and, indeed, the interests of South Africa – first.
If indeed it is acknowledged that the metals and engineering sector is vital to any economic recovery, it is incumbent on all the stakeholders to commit and pledge support for initiatives that may well extend beyond party positions and ideology.
The business landscape has undeniably changed, the new normal is upon us. Now more than ever before this paradigm shift is necessary, tens of thousands of jobs and the future of many business owners, workers and communities depend on the decisions we will make in the months ahead. We owe it to them to make the right decisions.
The Employer Associations federated to SEIFSA have no illusions that the negotiations that lie-ahead will not be easy. We understand that they will be tough, with both employers and trade unions putting their demands on the table. It is our hope, however, that we will be able to bargain collectively in a mature and constructive manner, with the interests of the country and, in particular, of the metals and engineering sector in mind.
Chief Executive Officer
SEIFSA is a national federation representing 18 independent employer associations in the metal and engineering industries, with a combined membership of over 1 200 companies employing over 170 000 employees. The federation was formed in 1943 and its member companies range from giant steel-making corporations to micro-enterprises employing fewer than 50 people.