The National Union of Metalworkers striking workers march in central Johannesburg. The union wants a 12 percent salary increase, the scrapping of labour brokers, and a one-year bargaining agreement. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi.

Johannesburg - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa said it would relax its demands and agree on a two-year pay deal with employers as the government oversees renewed talks to end a 17-day manufacturing strike.

The labour group has previously asked for a 10 percent wage increase as part of a one-year deal, while the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa has offered a three-year package including a 10 percent raise in the first year, 9.5 percent in the second and 9 percent in the third.

Numsa will now accept a 10 percent increase in each of the two years, according to General Secretary Irvin Jim.

“We are not far from each other,” Jim said in an interview with Bloomberg TV Africa today in Johannesburg.

“It’s only 0.5 percent” difference in the second year.

“We are very flexible.”

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant is mediating talks with Seifsa, as the employers’ lobby is known, and the union after an initial effort to resolve the strike failed last week.

The walkout, which started on July 1, is costing the metals industry about 300 million rand a day, according to Seifsa.

About 12,000 companies are being affected, as well as carmakers including Toyota, Ford and General Motors.

“The strike is bleeding the economy,” Jim said in the interview, to be broadcast tomorrow.

“We don’t want to cripple the economy.” - Bloomberg News