A strike by automotive component manufacturers is threatening to stop production again at vehicle manufacturing plants by the end of this week.
Production at Mercedes-Benz’s East London plant was halted after a single shift yesterday even though the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) called off a three-week strike in the motor manufacturing sector on Sunday.
With the exception of Toyota, BMW and Nissan, production resumed at vehicle plants yesterday.
Production is scheduled to resume at BMW and Nissan today, but several issues in the agreement reached between the Automobile Manufacturers Employers Organisation (Ameo) and Numsa are still being clarified to workers at Toyota and it is unclear when they will return to work.
The end of the strike in the motor manufacturing sector coincided with yesterday’s start of a strike in the retail motor industry, which includes automotive component manufacturers, vehicle dealerships and petrol service stations.
Lynette Skriker, a Mercedes-Benz South Africa spokeswoman, said workers returned to work yesterday and its plant had a smooth start-up, but production had to be halted from the second shift because of the impact of the strike at component suppliers.
She said components were supplied to the plant in East London on a just-in-time basis and the company’s management was looking at options and solutions to resolve the problem.
Thapelo Molapo, the vice-president of human resources and training at Toyota South Africa, who is also Ameo’s chairman and chief negotiator, said reports that workers at Toyota had rejected the Ameo offer were inaccurate. He said there were outstanding issues that needed to be clarified and debated with workers.
Molapo had no idea when production would resume, but stressed it was “not a long-winded process and would be done as soon as possible”.
However, Molapo confirmed that the company would be affected “in a number of days, if not less”, if the component manufacturers did not go back to work.
Mark Roberts, the convener of the component manufacturing sector at the motor industry bargaining council, said yesterday that it expected another meeting to take place with Numsa this week to try and resolve the dispute.
He said a high number of suppliers had gone on short time during the motor manufacturing sector strike, after they had built up buffer and contingency stock.
Jakkie Olivier, the chief executive and chief negotiator of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), said feedback received for its regions was that support for the strike was low and the impact small.
Olivier said most petrol service stations were affected by the strike and there were isolated reports of incidents where striking workers had blocked entrances and tried to convince non-striking workers to join the strike.
He said the RMI was trying to set up a meeting with Numsa for tomorrow to try and resolve the dispute.
Guy Kilfoil, a BMW South Africa spokesman, said its workers had accepted Ameo’s offer and returned to work yesterday but were sent home after a union meeting, and production would resume at 6am today because it needed to prepare its paint plant.
Kilfoil said BMW SA had lost the production of 8 000 cars during the strike and would lose a further 240 cars a day for the duration of the component sector strike because of inadequate component supplies.
Denise van Huyssteen, a spokeswoman for General Motors Africa, said normal production at its plant was expected to be halted by the end of the week because of disruptions at many of its suppliers.