* Strikers were blocking entrance to building site
* NUMSA and employers' body to meet later on Thursday
* Nampak say 40 pct of workers in metals unit off work
(Adds Nampak comment, charges of violence, Moody's)
By Tiisetso Motsoeneng
JOHANNESBURG, July 3 South African police fired
rubber bullets to disperse workers who blocked the entrance to
the construction site of state power utility Eskom's Medupi
power station on the third day of a wage strike.
More than 220,000 metal and engineering workers from the
National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), the
country's single largest labour grouping, went on an open-ended
strike on Tuesday, a week after a crippling platinum mine strike
The strike has disrupted construction work at two badly
needed Eskom power plants: Medupi in northern Limpopo province
and Kusile, whose completion has been delayed, partly by
"A few hundred workers were blocking one of the entrances to
Medupi power plant and we had to use rubber bullets to disperse
them," police spokeswoman Ronel Otto said, adding the situation
had been contained by the afternoon.
NUMSA was due to meet the main employers' body, the Steel
and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa
(SEIFSA), later on Thursday to try to end the latest strike to
hit Africa's most advanced, but ailing, economy.
The stoppage is costing South Africa some 300 million rand
($28 million) a day in lost output and will further dent
investor confidence hurt by a 20-week platinum strike that
dragged the economy into contraction in the first quarter.
The labour unrest would consign South Africa to a third
consecutive year of sub-par growth and posed risks for its
credit rating, Moody's said in a statement.
NUMSA is demanding wage increases of between 12 and 15
percent - at least double the official inflation rate - from
employers represented by SEIFSA.
EMPLOYERS CONDEMN VIOLENCE
The employers' body condemned what it called the violent
behaviour of some striking workers on Thursday.
"The right to strike should be exercised without infringing
on the rights of others and without creating a perception of
lawlessness," it said in a statement.
NUMSA rejected the allegation as a ploy to undermine the
The National Employers' Association of South Africa (NEASA),
which represents close to 3,000 mainly small and medium-sized
businesses, said it would not agree to a double-digit wage
increase. It is due to meet NUMSA on Friday.
"My position is I cannot go beyond eight percent," NEASA
chief executive Gerhard Papenfus told Reuters. "This industry is
in severe difficulty and 10 percent is irresponsible."
The stoppage is already hitting the supply of beverage cans
and auto parts and the automotive sector might have to halt
production if it continues beyond a week.
South Africa's biggest packaging group, Nampak Ltd,
said about 40 percent of the 4,000 employees in its metals and
rigid plastics division had failed to report for work.
"We are running but we are not fully operational," said head
of human resources Fezekile Tshiqi. "We might be at risk the
longer it goes on. We should cope up to end of this week and
struggle a bit from early next week."
Shares in Nampak, which derives nearly half of its 18.2
billion-rand annual sales from its metals and glass divisions,
were little changed at 37.45 rand.
($1 = 10.7754 South African Rand)
(Additional reporting by Wendell Roelf in Cape Town; Editing by
Stella Mapenzauswa and Andrew Roche)