Johannesburg - Wage talks to end an indefinite strike by more than 220,000 metalworkers in South Africa failed yesterday as the stoppage forced General Motors to halt output at its vehicle-assembly plant.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa’s rejected an improved offer from the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa, the employer group said in an e-mailed statement today.

The strike that began on July 1 has been marred by violence and prompted Moody’s Investors Service to warn yesterday that the country’s credit rating may be at risk.

Seifsa, as the employers’ group is known, said its offer to raise wages for the lowest-paid workers by 10 percent this year was the best it could make and it was “deeply disappointed” that it wasn’t accepted by Numsa.

General Motors shut its plant in the eastern coastal city of Port Elizabeth as the “the strike in the metal and engineering sector has impacted upon supply of components to our production line,” Gishma Johnson, the company’s spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement.

GM plans to build 50,000 vehicles a year in South Africa.

“We can’t tell for now if this will be reached because we don’t know how long the strike will continue,” Johnson said.

The assembly of light commercial autos such as Isuzu trucks and Chevrolet utility vehicles are affected by the stoppage, she said.


Rubber Bullets


The nationwide stoppage follows a five-month strike by more than 70,000 platinum miners that caused South Africa’s economy to contract in the first quarter of the year.

Police used rubber bullets to disperse 400 to 500 protesting workers at the construction site of Eskom’s Medupi power plant in Limpopo province yesterday.

Some factories in Johannesburg were also vandalised by strikers, the Star newspaper reported.

Numsa yesterday denied allegations that its members were involved in violence, saying in a statement that the reports are “part of a cheap ploy by the employers to undermine the integrity of our struggle for a living wage and improved conditions of employment.”

Numsa spokesman Castro Ngobese declined to immediately comment on the talks when contacted by phone today.

The union is demanding wage increase of 12 percent and for labor brokers to be banned.

Companies including Bell Equipment and Evraz Highveld Steel & Vanadium as well as units of Murray & Roberts and Aveng are affected by the stoppage.

Labor Minister Mildred Oliphant will meet with the parties today. - Bloomberg News