SEIFSA president calls for visionary thinking and bold action
SEIFSA president Henk Duys gave a challenging keynote address to a full house of employers as well as labour representatives and bargaining council representatives at SEIFSA's AGM held at the Johannesburg Country Club on 12 October.
Duys was outspoken in his call for the metal and engineering industry to focus on the critical need to grow the economy and beat the so-called triple challenge - poverty, unemployment and inequality. He highlighted the complexity and diversity of the metal and engineering industry with major differences in terms of company size, regional differences and economic circumstances. "One size cannot possibly fit all. What used to work in the past does not necessarily work today. As a sector, we need to talk, agree and together find workable solutions. As employers and unions, there is much more that binds us in terms of common objectives than that which separates us."
Duys reminded the audience of the self evident fact that business must make a profit in order to survive. He also contradicted the conventional wisdom by asserting that employers are essentially optimists, regardless of difficult political, economic and industrial relations circumstances in which they operate. "We are entrepreneurs and developers, agents of change and growth, we thrive on competition."
He highlighted the dramatic changes in the country's socio-economic-political landscape over the past two months and expressed concern about the underground fires among the unemployed and discontented which could easily burst into full scale civil unrest.
Duys also recognised the fact that the unions and bargaining councils were under threat on a number of fronts at present. He reminded employers that it was in no-one's interest to see the unions lose control and authority in the light of their role as a stabilising force not only in negotiations but also in initiatives to promote growth in manufacturing as a key element of the New Growth Path to create jobs in the country.
Duys referred to his singular pride in SEIFSA's extensive work over the past 69 years in supporting the growth and transformation of the metal and engineering industry. This included lobbying for the interests of the sector with government and within Nedlac, its role in managing the industry's benefit funds, its leadership role in artisan training over many decades and, recently, SEIFSA's initiative and motivation in establishing the new Industry Policy Forum as a key driver of industrial growth and competitiveness.
Duys concluded with a summary of his perspective on the three requirements for business to survive in the modern global economy - world class quality, globally competitive cost and stable production. "We have a clear duty to ensure that our businesses survive and that we retain jobs in these difficult times. As an industry and as responsible citizens, we have to embark on visionary action and we have to act boldly. It is high time we stopped walking and started working for the good of us all," he concluded.