SOUTH AFRICA: Strike costs BMW 13,000 cars as investment put on hold

By Simon Warburton | 7 October 2013

BMW South Africa says the recent massive industrial action cost the automaker 13,000 vehicles in lost production, adding future investment in the country has been "put on hold."

Around 100,000 striking workers in the component, petrol station, panel-beaters, car and spare parts, fitment workshops, truck body and trailer builders industries, as well as dealer sectors, walked out on 9 September in a dispute concerning pay, although there are unconfirmed reports employees had returned to plants today.

However, many are concerned about the reputational damage the huge walkout, itself following almost seamlessly from a manufacturing strike involving seven OEMs and truck plants, will have on the country's ability to attract further business.

"Given the level of labour instability in South Africa, any future investment has been put on hold" BMW South Africa spokesman, Guy Kilfoil, told just-auto. "We remain committed to our existing investment and will continue to produce cars. But given the environment in South Africa, it makes no sense to add more responsibility."

South Africa's Motor Industry Bargaining Council (MIBCO) components division previously said any extension of the walkout into a fourth week would be "quite disastrous," following an initial forecast of a two-week stoppage, but National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), president, Karl Cloete, previously told just auto, employers had to stop "being intransigent."

"The big question we need to start asking is how we get to the point where both sides of negotiations happen at the same time," said Kilfoil.

BMW added it had been operating during the strike, but "not at full capacity."

NUMSA was not immediately available for comment.