* NUMSA strike affects Ford's Pretoria plant
* Toyota says to halt some production from Tuesday
* Smaller UASA union says likely to accept offer this week
(Adds comments from head of Ford in South Africa)
By Wendell Roelf
CAPE TOWN, July 14 U.S. motor company Ford
has suspended production at one of its South African plants and
Japanese car-maker Toyota plans to follow suit as a
manufacturing workers' strike hits suppliers of car components.
The two-week-old strike by 220,000 NUMSA union members, who
are seeking 12-15 percent annual increases, follows on the heels
of a five-month strike in the platinum sector that stunted
economic growth and export earnings.
The strike, which has hit the supply of beverage cans made
by packaging firm Nampak, has damaged wider investor
sentiment in Africa's most advanced economy, which is teetering
on the brink of recession after a first-quarter contraction
caused in part by the platinum strike.
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.
Ford spokeswoman Alicia Chetty said: "Production at our
Silverton assembly plant has been temporarily suspended due to
the strike." She said only the company's Pretoria plant was
affected and its other plant in Port Elizabeth was operating
Jeff Nemeth, Ford's South Africa head, told Talk Radio 702
suspension at the plant - which assembles the Ford Ranger
pick-up truck - would mean the loss of about 350 units a day.
Nemeth said continued disruptions in the flow of products
might affect corporate investment decisions in Africa's most
developed but ailing economy.
Toyota said it would halt some production from Tuesday
because of supply chain problems related to the stoppage.
"Toyota will close two production lines from Tuesday at our
Durban plant," spokeswoman Mary Willemse said.
The manufacturing strike also forced General Motors
to close its assembly plant in the southern city of Port
Elizabeth over a week ago, despite efforts by Labour Minister
Mildred Oliphant to mediate between the union and employees.
Mercedes Benz said supply lines to its assembly
factory were reaching "critical" stress levels and an industry
body warned more car-makers could be forced to halt production.
"Things are beyond dire. We have exhausted stockpiles we
managed to build up in the months leading up to this strike and
I expect more companies to halt production should the strike
continue," Ken Manners, vice president of the auto component
manufacturing body NAACAM told Reuters.
Production at BMW, VW and Nissan
was normal, although company officials said on Monday
they were monitoring the situation closely.
Those affected include construction companies Murray &
Roberts and Aveng Ltd, which are working on
the construction of two major power plants for state power
NUMSA rejected the latest pay offer from employers in the
steel and engineering sector on Sunday and called on its
striking members to intensify the industrial action.
Employers have offered pay rises of 10 percent in the first
year, 9.5 percent in the second year and 9 percent in the third
year. But unions also have grievances about the role of labour
brokers in industry and do not want to be bound to a multi-year
agreement, preferring a one-year deal instead.
NUMSA met the main employer body, Steel and Engineering
Industries of South Africa (SEIFSA), on Monday to formally
reject the offer.
Spokesman Castro Ngobese said SEIFSA - which said on Friday
it would take its latest offer off the table if it is rejected -
has taken his union's latest demand to its members for
"Meanwhile the strike continues indefinitely," Ngobese said,
adding union leaders were due to meet on Tuesday to consider
ways to intensify the strike.
Smaller union United Association of South Africa (UASA),
which represents about 20,000 workers in the sector, said it was
awaiting a reply from employers on questions about the offer.
"We expect an answer by tomorrow and that will put us in a
position to say if we accept or reject it but chances of
accepting look good," Johan van Niekerk, UASA spokesman, said.
Separately, about 200 workers downed tools at unlisted Cape
Town-based wine maker DGB, demanding a 10 percent wage hike,
union leaders said. DGB, which makes some well-known brands, is
offering a 7 percent raise.
(Additional reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng in Johannesburg;
Writing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mthambo; Editing by Ruth Pitchford,
Hugh Lawson and Jane Merriman)