Strike puts brakes on BMW production

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BMW SA says the strike that began last Thursday has already resulted in lost production of 1 270 cars, which cant be made up. Photo: Supplied

Johannesburg - Striking workers have halted production at BMW South Africa’s plant in Rosslyn.

A strike affecting the entire motor manufacturing industry also appears imminent after negotiations over a new multi-year wage agreement for the industry deadlocked.

Thapelo Molapo, the chief negotiator and chairman of the Automobile Manufacturers Employers Organisation (Ameo), confirmed yesterday that the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) had stated its intention to give manufacturers 48 hours notice of strike action but had not yet done so.

Mphumzi Maqungo, the national treasurer of Numsa, said yesterday that the negotiations deadlocked about two weeks ago and a meeting of Numsa’s national executive committee tomorrow would “finalise this particular issue”.

Business Report has been reliably informed that the 30 000 workers in the motor manufacturing industry will go on strike from Monday.

Maqungo was unable to provide any specific information about the negotiations because Numsa’s national executive committee first had to consider a report on the status of the negotiations.

Molapo said Ameo and Numsa had negotiated until late on Monday night but had been unable to resolve the deadlock and scheduled sessions between the parties had been adjourned.

He added that the parties were still far apart and 15 items still remained unresolved but significant progress had been made because 36 items were on the table at the start of the negotiations.

Molapo said that it was difficult to quantify Numsa’s wage demands because there were a number of interwoven issues, such as shift allowances and a demand for equal pay in all plants, that increased the base wage.

Negotiations have also not been concluded on new agreements for the retail motor industry, whose chapters at the motor industry bargaining council include the automotive component manufacturers and the new tyre sector.

The previous three-year agreements for these sectors expired on June 30.

About 2 150 hourly paid production workers at BMW SA’s plant went on strike on Thursday. Guy Kilfoil, a BMW SA spokesman, confirmed workers had gone on strike over shift allowances, which by the end of yesterday had resulted in lost production of 1 270 BMW 3-Series cars.

Kilfoil added that the strike was baffling to BMW SA because shift allowances were among the items being discussed at the negotiations over a new agreement, and when shift allowances were finalised, any changes would be retroactive to July 1.

“From our perspective, the strike is the start of cutting the branch you are sitting on because it makes us an unreliable production supplier. We have customers all across the world and this issue affects those customers. It’s vital it is resolved quickly,” he said.

Of BMW SA’s total annual production of 82 000 units, 69 900 units were exported to countries including the US, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand.

“We can’t make up this lost production because we are now a three-shift 24-hour operation. I’m sure this lost production has already been reallocated to another plant because we can’t make it up,” he said.

Kilfoil said this affected not only on BMW SA’s business but the economy because it affected export volumes, resulting in balance of payment and automotive trade deficit issues.

He said BMW SA paid workers two different night shift allowances, with workers receiving 17 percent more than a normal shift for working a shift up to midnight and 20 percent more than a normal shift for a shift that ended after midnight.

Workers were demanding these allowances be raised. - Business Report


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