Cape Town - 140701 - approximately 600 people gathered at Kaizergracht ahead of the NUMSA march through cape town city centre as part of a nation-wide strike. Photo: Henk Kruger

Johannesburg - Hundreds of protesters gathered in the city for a march this morning as part of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) nation-wide strike.

According to Numsa, 220 000 workers across the country have downed tools.

In the city, hundreds had gathered outside the Cape Peninsula University of Technology by 11am.

At the time of going to print, more protesters were joining the group.

It was peaceful as most waved signs and chanted.

Western Cape secretary Vuyo Lufele said he expected 6 000 members to take part in the march, but the city had limited the union to just 4 000.

“We might have to cloak our numbers,” he joked.

Lufele said the 6 000 was only a small portion of the workers in the province who would not be going to work.

In total, he claimed 15 000 had downed tools and most of them had decided to stay at home.

This was despite Eskom’s threats that they would take disciplinary action against any employee who failed to arrive at work today. The state utility is protected from strike action as it is categorised as an essential service.

“I will say it right now, every one of our members is on strike,” said Lufele.

“That includes those working for Eskom. We will handle the legal problems later on.”

Numsa members were also due to march in Joburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London today.

A planned march in George was delayed at the last minute until Thursday.

The strike followed a deadlock in negotiations between employers and members of Numsa, the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union, and the General Industries Workers’ Union.

While companies had offered up to eight percent increase for skilled workers, and seven percent for unskilled workers – with CPI-linked increases set for next year and 2016 – the union is sticking to its demand of 12 percent.

This was after initially asking for 15 percent.

“We are a reasonable union, all we asking is for the employers to be reasonable too,” said Lufele.

He said workers were just scraping by, barely covering transport costs, let alone the cost of education for their children.

Cape Chamber of Commerce president Janine Myburgh said it was unfortunate that “a strike was necessary”.

“We don’t disagree with it, people have a right to strike. All we just hope is that it will be peaceful.”

Myburgh said the chamber hoped both parties could reach an agreement as quickly as possible to lower the impact on the economy. - The Cape Argus