Security Guard Source: Google Images

Mediation is all that stands between more than 500000 workers and a looming strike in the private sector security industry after wage negotiations collapsed last week.

Parties failed to reach an amicable solution through negotiations, with employers saying workers’ demands were unrealistic. The national wage negotiation process started in August.

Mediation took place on Wednesday and Thursday, under the auspices of a neutral facilitator. Nine unions last week rejected the 5percent salary offer presented by the South African National Security Employers’ Association and the Security Association of South Africa at the Bargaining Council for the Private Security Sector.

Employers offered an above-inflation increase of 5percent for a Grade C security officer, with a rand or value equivalent increase for the higher level grades in each respective year for three years. Private security industry workers are demanding a salary adjustment to R7500 for the lowest-paid category of Grade C officers, R8000 for Grade B and R8500 for Grade A officers. Currently, security officers are paid R4377, R4981 and R5558, respectively.

The general secretary of the Democratised Transport Logistics and Allied Workers Union, Vusi Ntshangase, confirmed that the unions had referred the matter to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) for resolution.

“We are waiting for the CCMA to convene a meeting, which will be two-fold: to attempt to push us to a settlement, failing which it will issue a certificate for a strike. We are hoping that in two to three weeks the CCMA should have convened us. Meanwhile, we as labour will quickly meet to discuss our position,” Ntshangase said.

“But I can tell you this: this mediation will fail, because the possibilities of convergence at this point are too far apart. I don’t think this dispute can be put through normal mediation.”

Ntshangase said employers’ stance on salary increases was “provocative”. He said the employers’ offer equated to an increase of R1.86 a day, or R218 a month, and they would not accept that. “The employer is complaining about the economic crisis in the country, but they don’t want to open their books for scrutiny. There is no scientific evidence to back up their claim. We are talking adjustment, and they are talking percentages,” he said.

“We don’t understand how the economic crisis affected them, because their rates remain the same. They are just grandstanding and provoking half-a-million workers.”

According to the Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority, private security’s contribution to national gross domestic product increased from 1.17percent in 2013 to 1.71percent in 2017.

Chris Laubscher, elected as a joint employer representative, said the demands made by organised labour remained unrealistic, and were at odds with what employers were able to offer.

Laubscher said labour representatives had failed to acknowledge, among other things, the dire economic situation, and the levels of non-compliance of the regulations of employment that resulted from negotiations between the parties.