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SOUTH AFRICA: NUMSA calls new auto walk out that could see 100,000 strike

By Simon Warburton | 28 August 2013

South Africa's wave of industrial unrest that has seen automotive manufacturing practically stop, according to union sources in a walkout involving up to 31,000 workers,  may now spread to include a vastly larger pool of staff in the component and retail sectors among others.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) has called a separate strike on 2 September for what it claims will be 72,000 employees in the petrol station, components, automotive retail, panel-beaters, car and spare parts, fitment workshops, truck body and trailer builders industries, as well as dealerships.

Reports from South Africa indicate the country is enduring a wave of walkouts across many industries including automotive, but also the construction, gold mining and airline sectors.

"Meetings are ongoing - we are meeting the trade unions next week - so things are very fluid," Retail Motor Industries Organisation (RMI) president Barry Canning told just-auto from South Africa.

"NUMSA said they were still keen to continue the process."

The union says it has the right to exercise "indefinite" strike action, which the labour body claims has been brought about by escalating living and fuel costs, as well as expense incurred to support unemployed family members.

National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (NAAMSA), director, Nico Vermeulen, last week said South Africa's unemployment rate was 24%, but pointed to the stability of his sector, despite the continuing strike that has seen up to 31,000 staff walk out in a pay and benefits dispute.

"The strike is going ahead on 2 September - it is 72,000 people," NUMSA chief automotive negotiator, Alex Mashilo, told just-auto from South Africa. "There is mediation going on - so far the mediation has not been able to resolve the situation.

"There are workers who get R14 (US$1.35) [per] hour - that is nothing."