MEIBC wage offer ‘bad news’ for employees


Representatives of the metal and engineering industries met in Boksburg on 24 April under the supervision of the bargaining council for the metal and engineering industries (MEIBC).
The current three-year agreement expires on June 30 this year.

The wage offer offered by the respective employers’ organizations varies between 6% for employees at the lowest level and 5% for skilled employees. “However, the offer is linked to the minimum wage rates per job category, and is not based on the actual wages earned by employees, a position that Solidarity completely rejects,” Gideon du Plessis, general secretary of Solidarity, said on Thursday.

He further argued that basing increases on the minimum wage rates would result in skilled and experienced employees receiving an increase well below the consumer price index (CPI), while entry-level employees would receive increases above the CPI. Such an offer not only has ethical implications, but a danger for the industry, as it will exacerbate the loss of talent to scarce skills.

The metal and engineering sector operates under a collective bargaining agreement, which includes technical schedules that determine the minimum wage rates across various occupations. This framework extends from highly skilled artisans (Grade A) to unskilled workers (Grade H).

During the post-Covid-19 period from 2021 to 2024, compromises were made to enable the industry’s recovery, in terms of which unions agreed that increases for this period should only be based on minimum wage rates rather than actual payment rates.

“This compromise resulted in skilled and experienced employees receiving raises of 3% or less over the three-year period, when the average CPI for the same period was close to 6%.”

Du Plessis emphasized that although this approach was necessary at the time, it could not be sustained after 2024 without jeopardizing the financial well-being of skilled workers.
To illustrate the implications of this scenario, he refers to the actual wage rate for a Grade A tradesman which averages R200 per hour, while the prevailing collective agreement requires a minimum wage rate of R98.11 for entry-level tradesmen.

“The 5% increase is then based on the minimum rates, and consequently the entry-level tradesperson will receive the 5% increase, which amounts to R4,91 per hour, while the top-level tradesperson’s real wage increase, based on the increase of R4,91 per hour, amounting to only 2,4%. The cumulative effect of this arrangement is unsustainable on an individual as well as an industry level.”

He says Solidarity is therefore strongly opposed to the continuation of increases based on minimum wage rates to the detriment of employees who have scarce skills. Du Plessis exerted pressure on the employers’ organizations to review their wage increase offer and base it on the actual wage rates as was the case until 2021 and not further disadvantage skilled employees.