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Metalworkers deal new blow to SA economy

Tuesday, July 01, 2014 - 01:32

Hard on the heels of a crippling platinum stoppage that ended last week, more than 200,000 engineering workers down tools over wage demands. Hayley Platt looks at what, potentially, could be another major blow to South Africa's contracting economy.

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No sooner has one strike ended in South Africa, another has begun. This time it's engineering and metals workers. They're demanding a 12 percent wage rise, more than double the rate of inflation. But so far employers have offered 8 percent. Workers say it's not enough. (SOUNDBITE) (Setswana) STRIKING WORKER, MALEFU HLAHANE, SAYING: "We are tired of being paid peanuts, we cant even afford to pay our debts, even though we go to work each and every day" (SOUNDBITE) (Setswana) STRIKING WORKER, PATRICK MERE, SAYING: "We want money, we are not asking the employers, we are telling them" Strikers have marched in six major cities. The latest industrial action is likely to hit construction and engineering firms both big and small. Including Toyota, Ford and General Motors, as workers at some of their suppliers go on strike. Just last week platinum miners returned to work following South Africa's longest and costliest wage dispute. And the economic effects are still being felt. South Africa's finance minister, Nhlanhala Nene. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SOUTH AFRICA FINANCE MINISTER, NHLANHLA NENE, SAYING: "The future suddenly looks very different for South Africa, in a world with higher interest rates, falling commodity prices, and changing trade patterns." The steel and metals manufacturing sector is far larger than mining, accounting for a fifth of the factory sector. A four-week strike last year by more than 30,000 NUMSA members at a major auto maker cost the industry around $2 billion. More than 220,000 downed tools for this latest strike - meaning the bill this time could be much, much bigger.

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Metalworkers deal new blow to SA economy

Tuesday, July 01, 2014 - 01:32