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Strike season heats up in South Africa’s auto sector

15 August, 2013National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) members at BMW have been on strike since Thursday 8 August on substantive issues, whilst a national strike across South Africa’s auto sector looms as wage negotiations deadlock.

More than 2,000 workers at a BMW plant in South Africa have gone on strike over a deadlock in plant level negotiations relating to shift allowances. The deadlock was not resolved in conciliation which led to the industrial action. 

Negotiations are also underway in the auto sector and BMW has portrayed in the media that they are perplexed by the strike given the sector level talks. 

"It must be very clear that BMW cannot say that they are confused by this strike. Negotiations with them at plant level preceded the industry level negotiations. In fact BMW tried to interdict the strike but the labour court allowed it to proceed;” said Alex Mashilo, negotiator for Numsa. “BMW’s claims are even more unfounded because at industry level we are discussing that shift allowance must be negotiated at plant level."

Meanwhile a wage deadlock has been reached in the industry level negotiations. More than 31,000 workers are expected to go on strike on 19 August, should the deadlock not be resolved. A strike notice has been served to employers in the auto sector including Toyota, Nissan, Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

Originally workers demanded a 20 per cent increase and are down to a demand of 14 per cent. Employers have officially offered 6 per cent plus R1.07 per hour.

Employers are indicating willingness to raise the offer to 10 per cent plus R1.07 per hour for the first year, and consumer price index (CPI) inflation plus 0.25 per cent and R1.07 per hour for each of the following two years.

Numsa wants a double digit wage increase and is not willing to accept lower wage increases after the first year in subsequent years covered by the three year agreement.