South Africa’s Employment and Labour Minister Mr Thulas Nxesi has called for a urges all parties to resolve their industrial issues urgently through social dialogue especially in this sensitive period of massive unemployment and retrenchments. The Minister was speaking as one of the major employer organisation the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa and the largest worker organisation, the National Metalworkers of South Africa are held in a deadlock over pay following the end of their wage agreement in June. Mr Nxesi appealed to all social partners entering the wage negotiations to work through their issues on the table. He said hostility would not solve differences, instead risks escalating the severe economic and social damages that have been brought about by the Covid-19. He said “Our Constitution guarantees the right of association and the protection of worker rights and industrial action. We respect the fact that many people died for us to be able to enjoy these rights. But with the rights come the responsibilities and we would like to urge unions and other worker representatives to exercise this responsibility. It is common cause that the country is now going through one of the most difficult periods occasioned by the pandemic on one hand and the inclement economic conditions that prevailed even before Covid-19 on the other. It is against this background that we appeal to all the players workers and employers, unions federations and employer bodies to handle the sensitive talks with the necessary caution. Cool heads should prevail and the good of the country and our economy should always at the top of mind. After protracted industrial action, we still have to come and sit around the table to resolve our differences but it is not wise or advisable to play a zero-sum game. We are all invested in this country.” This comes in the wake of the latest unemployment figures from Statistics South Africa which shows that the country has lost even more jobs in the second quarter. The number of unemployed persons increased by 584,000 to 7.8 million compared to the first quarter of 2021. National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa embarked on a national indefinite strike last week following failed salary negotiations with major employer organisation in the engineering sector, the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa. The strike may be worse than the 2014 industrial action in the steel industry, which lasted four weeks and cost the industry between ZAR 300 million and ZAR 500 million a day or ZAR 6-billion for the broader economy, as production stopped and the economy was starved of steel. Numsa has demanded an across-the-board salary increase of 8% for one year (2021), then an adjustment of consumer inflation plus 2% for the following two years. This works out to increases of just more than 6% for 2022 and 2023. But employers are not entertaining Numsa’s salary adjustment demands. They have tabled a 4.4% increase for 2021, inflation plus 0.5% increase in 2022, and inflation plus 1% increase in 2023. Numsa rejected the offer by employers, triggering the national strike.