Fresh negotiations have been arranged for next Monday (6 September) between striking South African component workers and the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI).

Up to 70,000 members of the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) have stopped work in protest at what the labour organisation perceives is lack of progress on wages and conditions, while a significant number of petrol stations have also been affected by walkouts.

However, new talks will take place at a hotel near Oliver Tambo airport in Johannesburg at 13:00 on Monday in a bid to break the deadlock, which the RMI concedes, is causing concern.

“There is a clear understanding that time is of the essence,” RMI CEO Jeff Osborne told just-auto from South Africa.

RMI is also calling for any settlement to be based around a three-year deal, which it believes would create a more stable environment for foreign investors.

“In our sector, which covers components and the retail industry, a three-year deal would serve to install some confidence from a foreign investor perspective,” said Osborne.

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The auto industry in South Africa has only recently emerged from a damaging eight-day walkout by car manufacturer workers, with Osborne noting the latest dispute was a “double whammy” as Volkswagen closed its plant completely the day before yesterday.

“Our concern is others will soon follow should this strike be protracted,” he noted.

Also on strike are many of South Africa’s 5,000 petrol stations, whose forecourt activities are closely regulated by the government. “What is unique to South Africa is that the wholesale and retail margin is controlled by the government,” said Osborne.

“Part of the regulations dictates full service on the driveway, so it is illegal to sell petrol on a self-service basis. Therein lies a unique challenge because petrol stations can not just pay out extra wages.”

Both parties in the dispute signed a letter last week condemning any aggression in the dispute, but Osborne noted there had been “pockets of intimidation and violence” although it is unclear to what extent this is a factor. “That is another reason to pull out all the stops,” he added.

NUMSA president Cederic Gina confirmed to just-auto from South Africa that new talks would be held on Monday.