SA motor industry fears impact as Numsa strike commences

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Oct 6, 2021

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Cape Town - The South African motor industry is already under pressure following the recent unrest, port delays and semi-conductor shortage, but now Numsa’s strike action, which commenced on Tuesday, is posing a further threat.

South Africa's biggest metalworkers union is pressing for wage rises in the engineering sector, but the action threatens to spill over and block supplies of parts to make new cars, industry and union officials said.

With around 155 000 members organised in the sector, Numsa has called for a total shutdown of the engineering industry after wage talks with employer bodies deadlocked.

"We are left with no choice but to strike and to withhold our labour indefinitely until the bosses give into our just demands," Numsa said.

Numsa had sought an 8% across-the-board wage rise in the first year of a pay deal, and an increase equal to the rate of inflation plus 2% for the following two years. Annual inflation is currently around 5%.

Industry body Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa had offered 4.4% for 2021, inflation plus 0.5% in 2022 and inflation plus 1% in the third year

Lucio Trentini, chief executive at the federation which represents more than 1000 firms, from small family-owned businesses with less than 20 employees to large listed companies, said a poll among members on Tuesday showed a worker absenteeism rate of around 26%.

"And I fear ... that this number will grow as the strike continues through the week," he told Reuters.

Trentini said they were in contact with Numsa to try and reach a "mutually acceptable" compromise and prevent a repeat of a damaging four-week strike in 2014 that cost the economy an estimated R6 billion in lost output.

Smaller union, UASA, said it was balloting members to determine if they also supported strike action, with a final decision expected on Friday.

"We urge parties to speedily resolve the impasse and prevent long-term damage and possible line stoppages to vehicles being assembled in SA and abroad," Renai Moothilal, executive director at the National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers, told Reuters.

A Ford spokeswoman said they would not comment for now, while a Nissan spokeswoman said they were monitoring the situation "and do not foresee any impact on our side".

IOL & Reuters

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