the other, labour goes beyond ensuring that jobs are created but that it is decent employment which pays living wages that give workers buying power and also stimulate the economy. “We are, therefore, always encouraging the parties to focus on dealing with issues that are of the industry’s interest, strive to grow the industry, train employees and influence the industry policy making process,” says Mthiyane.
Busy Times Ahead
He reveals that in the immediate future, the Council will be preparing for the launch of the Industry Policy Forum (IPF), finalise the discussions around the Main Agreement challenges between the MEIBC parties, and lastly finalise the proposed new plastic dispensation discussions. Most importantly, Mthiyane says that it is never too early to start preparations and, as such, the MEIBC is already preparing for the 2014 industry wage negotiations. A question that may spring to mind is that has the Council, then, achieved all it set out to do at the beginning of the year? Indeed it has, says Mthiyane. Among others, the Council formulated its Five Year Siyanqoba Strategy Plan in which the Council committed to visit 80% of the companies registered with the Council and to register 10% new companies covered within its scope. The plan was successfully presented and discussed with all the employers, labour and all council staff across all regions, reveals Mthiyane.
Another milestone for 2013 for the Council is the Industry Breakfast Seminars that were held throughout the country. Says Mthiyane: “Employers and employees had the opportunity to use these forums to share and discuss their ideas with the General Secretary of the MEIBC. Chief among the issues discussed was how the question of unemployment, in South Africa, can be addressed.” Industry experts, economists, academics, and government officials were also a component of the discussions as they have their own ideas and plans on job creation and retention thereof.
Partnering for Job Creation
Mthiyane points out that the responsibility does not stop with just mapping the way forward through discussion but, the MEIBC collaborates with such organisations as the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related SETA (merSETA) to ensure that workers in the industry receive training that is relevant to their jobs. “Employers are also doing their bit to make certain that employees acquire relevant skills that will assist productivity through the provision of decent working conditions of employment negotiated in our industry. We hope to retain all skilled employees in our industry,” he elaborates. Mthiyane was appointed to the role of the General Secretary in 2012 and he contends that while there is still more that has to be done under his stewardship, even a lot more has been achieved.
“The Council has a solid team that has managed to turn around the Human Resources, Finance, Communications and Operations departments. We have set a new operational target of 80% for the Operations department which they have accepted and are steadily progressing towards meeting this goal,” says Mthiyane. He additionally commends the Communications department that has embarked on a vigorous marketing for the office of the General Secretary, the General Secretary and the MEIBC in general. Through these campaigns, Mthiyane says, evidence shows that the industry is slowly getting to grips with the role of the Bargaining Council while simultaneously aggressively advertising and popularising the MEIBC brand.
It is a tricky balancing act for the Council in the times ahead as the key issue remains for the Council to create a level playing field for employers. “We need to ensure that all employers and companies covered by our scope are registered with the Council and are competing fairly with companies within the sector,” states Mthiyane. He adds that the Council needs to make sure that stakeholders have a major say in the processes that are meant to shape the industry policies through the IPF process.Having travelled thus far with the MEIBC, Mthiyane believes that the metal and engineering sectors hold untold potential for the country. In that regard, he concludes by urging South Africans, at large, to “join the Council in the critical journey of popularising the MEIBC and growing of this great industry by helping us to encourage people and investors alike to invest in this country and our industry in particular.”
En all Encompassing Council
The MEIBC’s scope covers a wide range of activities within the metal and engineering industries, including the following sectors:
The production of iron, steel, alloys and metallurgy
Building and repairs of ships and boats
Certain sections of the electrical engineering industry
The lift engineering industry and
The plastics industry.
By the end of November 2012, the Council represented approximately 10 624 firms and 306 747 employees in the industry in South Africa.
Beyond Healthy Relations
The relations between labour and the industry in South Africa are, at best, described as a minefield where both parties need to satisfy their wishes while, at the same time, ensuring a prosperous and industrious South Africa. The Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC) has the unenviable task of maintaining equilibrium between all important stakeholders. It is no mean feat and, placed squarely on its shoulders, the MEIBC shares that its mandate goes beyond just maintaining healthy relationships.
According to Thulani Mthiyane, the General Secretary of the MEIBC, the relations between employers’ organisations and trade unions are premised on very fundamental differences. On the one hand employers want to create job opportunities while concomitantly maximising their profits. On
CASE IN POINT | MEIBC
by Andrwew Ngozo