* Strike halts GM plant; Toyota says "business as usual"
* NUMSA union rejects latest employers' wage offer
* Employers accuse strikers of violence and harassment
* Strike squeezes economy after long platinum stoppage
* Fresh strike at Impala Platinum mine
(Adds news strike at Implats mine)
By Ed Stoddard and Wendell Roelf
JOHANNESBURG/CAPE TOWN, July 4 General Motors
suspended production at its main South African plant
after a strike hit parts supplies, the U.S. automaker said on
Friday, becoming the latest victim of relentless labour unrest
in Africa's most advanced economy.
Violence erupted on some picket lines, as the wage strike by
the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) dealt
a further blow to an economy damaged by a five-month walkout in
the platinum industry that only ended last week.
It will also further unnerve investors, increasingly
frustrated by the unremitting labour strife and perceptions that
Pretoria is unable, or unwilling, to rein in militant unions.
About 2,000 workers affiliated with the National Union of
Mineworkers went on strike at Impala Platinum's IMPJ.J Marula
mine on Friday demanding higher wages, in apparent response to
the deal secured by rival union AMCU last week.
GM's suspension of output at its plant in the coastal city
of Port Elizabeth showed the escalating impact of the walkout,
after NUMSA rejected an increased wage offer from the Steel and
Engineering Industry Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA).
"The plant has been shut since yesterday because of the
parts supplier issues," spokeswoman Denise van Huyssteen said.
NUMSA's more than 200,000 members went on strike on Tuesday,
a move employers say will cost the economy more than $28 million
a day in lost output.
SEIFSA said it offered wage increases of up to 10 percent
late on Thursday, revised from 8 percent. The union wants hikes
of 12 to 15 percent, more than double the inflation rate.
"Regrettably, it would appear that we continue to be miles
apart with the union," SEIFSA chief executive Kaizer Nyatsumba
said in a statement.
In contrast, NUMSA boss Irvin Jim said on Friday he believed
the two sides were "not very far from each other". Issues like a
youth wage subsidy and the removal of labour brokers were key to
a settlement, he told Reuters.
Other sticking points have been NUMSA's insistence that any
agreement should apply for one year, while employers want to
lock down a three-year deal.
GOVT MEETS UNIONS, EMPLOYERS
South Africa's labour minister was meeting the union after
earlier talking to employers on Friday, a spokesman told
Reuters, adding the government was hopeful of a deal soon.
Credit ratings agency Moody's said this week the labour
unrest would consign South Africa to a third consecutive year of
sub-par growth and posed risks for its rating.
"I think we've become prisoners of the ratings agencies ...
I think our sovereignty is completely lost," NUMSA's Jim said.
In one industrial area east of Johannesburg, mobs of
strikers smashed car windshields and attacked workers who
crossed picket lines, a witness said.
"They are breaking factory windows," said James, who
declined to give his surname. "They are attacking people".
President Jacob Zuma's government said it was concerned
about the reports of vandalism and intimidation. It appealed for
Around 26 strikers were arrested in Gauteng province, which
includes Johannesburg, on charges of public violence and
malicious damage to property, police said.
SEIFSA said many employers represented by the federation had
reported "serious incidents of violence" by strikers, including
damage to property and assaults on those reporting for work.
"People fear for their safety in their workplaces, where
windows have been stoned, entrance gates broken and workers
intimidated on site," said Marius Croucamp, head of the metals
and engineering sector at the Solidarity union, which has not
joined the NUMSA-led strike.
Some automakers said they had not yet been affected.
Japan's Toyota Motor Corp said it was "business as
usual" despite the strike. "We still have full production
capacity," spokeswoman Mary Willemse told Reuters.
The local unit of Mercedes Benz, an arm of Germany's Daimler
AG, said it did not expect an immediate impact.
Police on Thursday said officers had fired rubber bullets to
disperse workers blocking the entrance to the construction site
of state power utility Eskom's Medupi power station.
The stoppage will further dent investor confidence already
hurt by the platinum strike that dragged the economy into
contraction in the first quarter.
(Additional reporting by Zandi Shabalala, Ed Cropley, Tiisetso
Motsoeneng, Joe Brock and Stella Mapenzauswa in Johannesburg;
Writing by Ed Stoddard and David Dolan; Editing by Pascal
Fletcher and Mark Trevelyan)