SA faces another worker strike


JOHANNESBURG — Just as car workers were set to return to assembly lines yesterday after a strike of almost three weeks, workers elsewhere in the motor industry, including petrol attendants, are to down tools.


The strike action by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) halted vehicle manufacturing and has left global vehicle makers counting the costs.
Analysts and producers have warned that resumed production would need to focus on the domestic market, with the length of the strike and the lost production having further dented South Africa’s image as an investment destination.

As the one Numsa strike ends, thousands — the union’s petrol attendants, workers at components retailers, panelbeaters, car and spare parts dealers, fitment workshops, and dealerships — began a strike yesterday demanding higher wages.

Referring to the strike ending yesterday, Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim on Sunday said that union members at five of the seven global vehicle makers signed off on a multiyear, double-digit wage deal which will see an 11,5% wage increase this year, with 10% increases next year and in 2015, and an annual R1 200 transport allowance.

BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, General Motors, Volkswagen, Nissan and Ford, and some truck and bus makers, were affected by the strike, with the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers estimating that it cost producers R700m a day.

BMW SA confirmed last Friday that the strike in the sector had killed off any prospect of an expansion of activity at its plant in Rosslyn, Pretoria.

As of Sunday, the company had lost 7 871 of its 3-Series cars to the strike, which can “never be caught up”, spokesperson Guy Kilfoil said.

“The success of automobile production in South Africa revolves around increased exports. With this in mind, all locally-based rigional equipment manufacturers constantly look for every avenue to increase their export volume ,” he said.

The issue of reduced expansion had not been raised with Numsa, Jim said. The strike could have been averted if producers had tabled their offers earlier.