010714 Numsa strike resumed today around the country.photo by Simphiwe Mbokazi 5

Johannesburg - The South African union leading a strike by more than 220,000 metalworkers said it’s making headway with employers in narrowing the gap in demands.

“If employers dig a bit deeper, there should be prospects for settlement very soon,” Andrew Chirwa, president of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, or Numsa, said by phone today from Johannesburg.

“We don’t think that the parties are too far apart regarding the negotiations.”

The strike that started on July 1 is costing the steel and metal industry about 300 million rand a day, according to the employers’ lobby Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa, known as Seifsa.

Stoppages are affecting as many as 12,000 companies and production has been hurt at carmakers including General Motors and Bayerische Motoren Werke.

Seifsa, which represents some large employers, has offered salary increases of 8 percent to 10 percent, while the National Employers Association of South Africa, made up of smaller businesses, offered a maximum raise of 8 percent.

Numsa, South Africa’s biggest trade union, plans to present an improved wage offer from Seifsa to its members and make a decision on the proposal today, Chirwa said.

“Workers are also losing,” he said. “The economy is also suffering.”

The union rejected an offer last week in which the lowest-paid workers would obtain a 10 percent wage increase.

The labour group is asking for an increase of 12 percent.

South African inflation accelerated to 6.6 percent in May.

Police arrested 53 Numsa members on July 8 following attacks on trucks and offices east of Johannesburg.

“We have enough instruments in our labour-relations machinery to resolve labour disputes,” President Jacob Zuma said in a speech today.

“There is no need to resort to violence. The metal industries’ sector needs to go back to full production as soon as possible.” - Reuters