Employers representing South African component makers have strongly refuted claims unions have rejected a wage offer to end strikes that have paralysed the industry and brought violence in their wake.

The Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) has responded to reports the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) turned down a deal during the third day of negotiations in Johannesburg.

"Local media are reporting NUMSA has rejected our wage offer, which is completely without foundation and is untrue," RMI CEO Jeff Osborne in Johannesburg told just-auto.

"It kind of spread quite quickly - it is not finished and we are still in talks. They have not rejected nor accepted [a deal] - there is a whole package they are deliberating on - talks are still very much alive."

The dispute - including forecourts and involving what NUMSA claims is a 100% turnout of its 70,000 workers - also appears to be turning ugly with reports of intimidation and violence.

"A couple of fuel dealers [have been] hospitalised and beaten up," said Osborne. "A couple of car manufacturing plants have had people being obstructed from coming and going, which is against the rules.

"It is an unfortunate reality of this situation that the ability to control is not there."

The dispute - involving a series of wage and working benefits claims - is being mediated in a Johannesburg hotel by the South African Department of Labour's Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

Osborne added due to "slow progress," the CCMA Commissioner would now stay to 17:00 local time in order to facilitate the negotiation process.

Sticking points are as yet unclear, but it appears one issue may be union demands to backdate any wage settlement.

"We are not agreeing to backdating at all," said Osborne. "It is a principle we have never agreed to."

NUMSA confirmed talks were continuing this afternoon and that it was asking for guaranteed increases for everyone.

"The RMI has offered 8% this year, 7% next year and 7% in 2010 - we are talking to them about this because that offer is available on the minimum in the industry," NUMSA deputy general secretary Karl Cloete told just-auto.

"If employees are above the minimum, it means they not benefit from the 8%. They must allow us to work out a formula to ensure a guaranteed increase for everyone."