The National Employers’ Association of South Africa (NEASA) says it will use the upcoming Industry negotiations in the Metal and Engineering Industry (MEIBC) to negotiate for an environment that is conducive to job creation and the growth of SMME’s. NEASA has adopted a bargaining position aimed at a definite turnaround in the status quo which is currently crippling efforts to bring about economic growth and job creation in the Metal Industry. NEASA also welcomed the approach adopted by the federation, SEIFSA, in this regard.
‘If we are going to leave this round of negotiations not having seriously addressed certain very demanding issues, we would have failed all employers and employees in the Industry. We would also have failed potential employers and entrepreneurs and denied millions of unemployed persons a chance in life. South Africa has an unacceptably high unemployment rate and regardless of the reasons for this, we have one thing in common; we have to find a solution for unemployment and create jobs. As an industry it is in our hands to do this. Where we differ, even on ideological grounds, is how we’re going to create jobs,’ says Gerhard Papenfus, NEASA CE.
South Africa is currently making no dent in the unemployment crisis. In February there was a net loss of jobs of over 100 000.
‘Private sector employment growth, which is the only real form of employment growth, is overall negative. Where there is an increase in employment in the formal sector is in the ‘community service’ sector which is predominantly public sector employment. That does not solve the problem, but rather increases it,’ Papenfus said.
Papenfus believes an important reason for the failure to create jobs in South Africa is a constant decline in business confidence. Business no longer feel welcome in South Africa and as long as that sentiment exists, there will be no real improvement in private sector job creation.
‘There is this constant notion that making a profit by definition illustrates some form of wrongdoing towards employees. Business owners almost feel embarrassed and ashamed of being successful. This approach is contrary to the wisdom of the Chinese philosopher Confucius who said that in a well governed country, poverty is something to be ashamed of whilst, in a badly governed country, wealth is something to be ashamed of,’ Papenfus said.
Papenfus has criticised the fact that South Africa has become a nation that is boasting about how many people are recipients of social grants instead of boasting about how successful efforts are to create real jobs and the prosperity of citizens and business. Papenfus also poured cold water over government’s efforts to curb the ever increasing gap between the so-called 'rich' and the 'poor' through constant interference.
‘The reality is that increased interference always exacerbates the problem. Business always respond negatively to interference and the way business respond to this phenomenon is by simply not employing. This is quite evident when one looks at recent figures pointing to the fact that the Metal Industry lost 250 000 jobs in the last five years and currently has an annual trade deficit of R50 billion,’ he said.
Papenfus pointed out that it would not be feasible to marry the demands of workers in respect of a 'living wage' and the urgent need to find solutions to sustain jobs and for business to create employment opportunities. He criticized the current bargaining dispensation that negotiates actual wages and conditions of employment instead of industry minimums only. This scenario results in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ dispensation which is detrimental to entrepreneurs, all potential new entries into the Industry (employers and employees), is therefore damaging to growth and thus unsustainable.
‘There are employees who, through these negotiations, want to improve their standard of living. That we as employers understand and respect. But then there are many employers who already simply cannot afford the existing unaffordable arrangement, let alone the further improving of benefits,’ Papenfus says.
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