Huge strike could hurt South Africas automotive export potential

Huge strike could hurt South Africa's automotive export potential

Striking metalworkers in South Africa are holding out the possibility talks could resume on Monday (21 July) to resolve the country's bitter dispute, which has seen several automakers forced to cut back or stop production.

Some 220,000 employees have downed tools in support of a three-year pay claim, which would see rises of 10% per year until 2016, but it now appears the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and employers are inching towards at least starting negotiations.

"We are trying to get the wages that will keep the union happy and the employers happy," NUMSA head of collective bargaining, Stephen Nhlapo, told just-auto from South Africa.

"If that is agreed, we might convene a full bargaining session on Monday or Tuesday, because maybe the employers might want to meet with their Council.

"We are looking for a one year agreement, but the employers are steadfast on three year [s]. We said we can take a three-year agreement if you give us 10%, 10%, 10%."

Nhlapo also addressed the issue of alleged intimidation, which some observers say has been a feature of the more than three-week strike, but insisted: "We don't condone violence."

South Africa's automotive manufacturing association (NAAMSA) director, Nico Vermeulen, told just-auto from Johannesburg, some five out of the country's seven automakers had either had to stop or alter production levels as component producers were affected by the strike.

The country has only just recovered from last September's disastrous three-week walkout that cost the automotive sector US$58m a day and concerns have been raised continued industrial unrest is harming the country's reputation as an automotive supplier to international markets.