JOHANNESBURG Wage talks with South Africa's metalworkers union will resume at the weekend, an employer body said on Thursday, denying a report of a government-brokered deal to end a strike that is further sapping an ailing economy.
More than 200,000 metal workers stopped work at the start of the month, demanding between 12-15 percent wage increases and disrupting the supply of car parts and construction work at two crucial power stations for Eskom [ESCJ.UL].
Citing Irvin Jim, general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers (NUMSA), Bloomberg News reported the union would relax its demands and agree a two-year deal with the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (SEIFSA).
But both NUMSA and SEIFSA denied they had reached an agreement.
"There is no agreement. The report attributed to NUMSA that a two-year agreement has been concluded with SEIFSA is incorrect," said Lucio Trentini, operations director the main employer body.
Trentini also said SEIFSA, other employer bodies and all six striking unions, including NUMSA, will meet over three days from Saturday to find ways to reach an agreement.
NUMSA rejected a pay offer from employers on Sunday and said on Wednesday that it would immediately start mobilising workers for protest marches across the country.
It also plans to hold lunchtime pickets and demonstrations in the auto, rubber, tyre and power sectors.
The strike has disrupted the supply of components to automobile makers, pushing Toyota, General Motors and <Ford F.N> to halt production at their assembly plants in South Africa.
A five-month strike in platinum mines which ended in June has already damaged the economy, which is teetering on the brink of recession after a first-quarter contraction.
Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene told a briefing on Thursday that the South African government was concerned about the state of industrial relations.
(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng, Helen Nyambura-Mwaura in Johannesburg and Wendell Roelf in Cape Town; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)