Johannesburg - Production at all seven vehicle manufacturing plants in South Africa was idle yesterday as the 30 000 or so hourly paid workers in the industry heeded the call by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) for them to go on strike for better wages and conditions of service.
Thapelo Molapo, the chairman and chief negotiator of the Automobile Manufacturers Employers Organisation, confirmed yesterday that none of the plants were producing and the total cost in lost wages and benefits was about R50 million a day if all the hourly workers went on strike.
Nico Vermeulen, the executive director of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa), said on Friday that the strike would result in lost production of about 3 000 vehicles a day valued at about R600m.
The strike has halted production at the plants of BMW South Africa, Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa and Nissan South Africa in Pretoria; General Motors South Africa (GMSA) in Port Elizabeth; Toyota South Africa Motors in Durban; Mercedes-Benz South Africa in East London and at Volkswagen South Africa in Uitenhage.
Workers at BMW SA have already been on strike for the past 10 days because of a dispute over shift allowances, which is among the items still being negotiated at the motor industry bargaining council, while workers at Ford SA went on strike prematurely from last Thursday, apparently because of a misunderstanding about the date of the commencement of the strike.
BMW SA spokesman Guy Kilfoil said it had up until 6am yesterday lost the production of 2 310 vehicles, which with an average showroom value of R450 000 a vehicle had resulted in a loss of about R1 billion.
Kilfoil said the majority of the vehicles it exported to the US were 328i models followed by 335i models, which increased the average value of the vehicles it produced.
Of the seven motor manufacturers, only GMSA and Ford SA had indicated that some hourly paid staff had reported for work yesterday.
Denise van Huyssteen, a GMSA spokeswoman, said it had about 20 percent attendance by hourly paid workers at its plant but it was unable to continue with normal production and these workers were reallocated to other functions to ensure parts availability and after-sales service to the company’s customers.
Rella Bernardes, a spokeswoman for Ford SA, said only its workers involved in essential services had reported for work.
Volkswagen SA spokesman Matt Gennrich said “the great majority” of its Numsa members were on strike.
Molapo said there had been picketing at many of the plants but only about 10 percent of the striking workers took part in any of the protest action.
There had not been any reports of violence at any of the plants, he said.
Molapo said further discussions had taken place with Numsa on Friday night and were to resume again last night in an attempt to resolve the strike. He said Numsa had also worked over the weekend on a proposal made by employers.
“There is reason to be optimistic and we’re likely to make progress tonight [Monday] although it [the progress] will not necessarily be conclusive,” he said.
Attempts to obtain comment from Numsa were unsuccessful. - Business Report