* NUMSA threatens to widen strike to other sectors
* Union says current wages exploitative
* NUMSA, employers to meet on Monday
(Adds employer body reaction)
By Stella Mapenzauswa
JOHANNESBURG, July 13 South Africa's
metalworkers' union NUMSA rejected the latest pay offer from
engineering and steel sector employers on Sunday, saying black
workers were still underpaid, and threatened to widen its
two-week old strike.
Industrial action by 220,000 NUMSA members, which followed
on the heels of a crippling five-month strike in the platinum
sector, has already forced General Motors to close its
assembly plant in the southern city of Port Elizabeth.
Other companies affected are construction companies Murray &
Roberts and Aveng Ltd, which are working on
the construction of two major power plants for state power
NUMSA is demanding a 12-15 percent annual wage increase for
its members and on Sunday rejected employers' latest offer of a
10 percent increase this year, 9.5 percent in 2015 and 9.0
percent the year after that.
Irvin Jim, general secretary of the National Union of
Metalworkers of South Africa, said NUMSA would not accept
anything less than a 10 percent annual rise over three years at
the very least.
"While we are fully aware of the state of the industry in
the metals and engineering sectors we are also very acutely
aware of the miserable conditions of life of the majority of the
black and African working class who ... survive on extremely
low, colonial and very inferior racist-inspired wages," Jim told
"We are making a very clear statement that the strike
continues and we call on our members to intensify the strike."
That could mean calling 100,000 NUMSA members in other
industries to join the strike as well.
"Should the employers continue with their reckless
shenanigans and unreasonable demands, we might be left with no
option but to call for targeted solidarity in all our sectors,"
The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South
Africa (SEIFSA), which represents employers in the sector, said
it was disappointed with NUMSA's rejection of what it called its
"very good final offer".
"We have now done everything that we could possibly have
done to end the strike," chief executive Kaizer Nyatsumba said
in a statement, adding that the SEIFSA leadership had exhausted
Jim said NUMSA was due to meet with employers again on
"NUMSA's militancy is a direct product of our rejection of
the inhumanity of our work and super exploitative wages and
conditions," he said.
"We remain committed to return to serious negotiations on
the demands of our members."
ECONOMY UNDER PRESSURE
A continued or wider strike by NUMSA would put further
pressure on South Africa's economy, which contracted in the
first quarter of the year as the platinum miners' strike hit
mining and manufacturing output.
A four-week strike last year by more than 30,000 NUMSA
members at major automakers cost the industry around $2 billion.
Ratings agency Standard & Poor's cut South Africa's credit
rating last month while Fitch put it on negative watch, both
citing poor growth prospects mainly because of strikes.
Analysts have long singled out South Africa's volatile
labour environment as a deterrent to investment.
SEIFSA has said the local head of U.S. vehicle maker Ford
Motor was under pressure from head office to sell up its
However, Ford, which has invested over 3.4 billion rand
($317 million) in two South African plants, producing its Ranger
pick-up truck for the domestic market and for export to nearly
150 other markets, says it is committed for the long term.
($1 = 10.7090 South African rand)
(Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Susan Fenton)