Leaders of South Africa's main union, whose huge strike has paralysed the country's automotive sector, say a special press conference this Friday (6 September), is due to take place that could possibly spell the end of the protracted dispute.

Some 31,000 workers, led by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), are currently in their third week of industrial action that has plunged the country's automotive operations into severe disruption, but hints are now emerging of a way forward.

The South African Automotive Employers Association (AMEO), told just-auto last week NUMSA had agreed to an - unspecified - package put forward by the industry and the union is now confirming it has finished consulting its members.

NUMSA has demanded a 14% pay rise coupled with housing and transportation benefits, while the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (NAAMSA) previously offered 8%, although the body was unable to confirm reports this had subsequently improved to 10%.

"We have consulted with our members - that completed today," NUMSA chief automotive negotiator Alex Mashilo, told just-auto from South Africa. "We will be convening a session for NUMSA leadership followed by a sitting of the national executive committee in Johannesburg.

"The press conference - we normally do it after meetings -  so it is more likely Friday - this is a special press conference."

The NUMSA chief negotiator conceded the discussions were a "highly sensitive process" and follow a huge march this morning in Pretoria by what the union claimed was an 11,000 strong crowd, to the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (NAAMSA), to hand in a petition to employers.

Attempts to resolve the bitter dispute have taken "far too long," South African Automotive Employers Association (AMEO) chairman, Thapelo Molapo, told just-auto today, with the organisation estimating the strike to be costing US$58m per day.