* Strike set for July 1, union seeking 12 pct pay hike
* S.Africa still reeling from platinum strike
(Recasts with strike threat, adds details, changes dateline
from Cape Town)
By Zandi Shabalala
JOHANNESBURG, June 26 Almost a quarter of a
million South African workers in sectors from engineering to
communications will strike indefinitely from July 1 in pursuit
of a pay claim, the latest of a series of stoppages that have
damaged Africa's most advanced economy.
South Africa's largest union NUMSA, which represents metal
workers and other mostly skilled employees, said on Thursday the
strike over wage demands was inevitable. It is seeking wage
hikes of 12 percent against an inflation rate of 6.6 percent.
Employers are offering 8 percent, NUMSA said. It has said
companies that would be impacted include Bell Equipment
and industrial group Dorbyl.
South Africa is still reeling from a five-month strike in
the platinum mining sector, which ended with a settlement this
week. The government, keen to prevent more damage, said it would
talk to all sides in a bid to prevent the NUMSA action.
"We are going to support all the affected parties to make
sure this strike doesn't take place," Communications Minister
Faith Muthambi told reporters during a briefing in parliament.
Yet the government's ability to influence NUMSA may be
limited, as the union, once a political ally of the ruling
African National Congress, refused to campaign for the party in
elections this year because of disagreements over policy.
NUMSA, which has been having national talks with an
employers' group called the Metal and Engineering Bargaining
Council, claims to be South Africa's largest union with around
340,000 members, representing mostly black and urban workers.
NUMSA also said its 11,000 members at power utility Eskom
would be willing to risk a wildcat strike, separate
from its other national action, but gave no timeframe for any
Workers at Eskom are generally not allowed to strike by law
because they are considered to provide essential services. A
downing of tools there by NUMSA members could hamper the
utility's ability to keep the lights on, already a daily battle
because of razor-thin margins between power supply and demand.
Labour unrest and frequent strike action have taken a toll
on South Africa's reputation with investors and on its economy,
which contracted in the first quarter of the year largely
because of the platinum strike.
A four-week strike in 2013 by more than 30,000 NUMSA members
at major auto makers cost the industry around $2 billion in lost
(Additional reporting by Wendell Roelf in Cape Rown; Writing by
Ed Stoddard; Editing by Joe Brock and David Holmes)