JOHANNESBURG – The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) says workers in the automotive components sector are disgruntled over the failure of employers to offer “equal work for equal pay” and recognise them as a key stakeholder in the industry.
Union general secretary Irvin Jim told a panel discussion at the National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers of SA (Naacam) industry show in Durban that workers did not want to be “merely consulted” in the drafting and implementing of new plans to guide the automotive industry.
“Workers in the component sector are very angry. Workers in this industry must have a stake in the ownership of all automotive companies.”
The comments from the head of the country’s single biggest trade union come ahead of sector wage talks and amid heightened political expectations ahead of May 8 general elections.
The industry produces more than 550 000 new vehicles a year and employs about 112 000 people.
Vehicle sales have flat-lined over the past few years, as other speakers at the show noted. The system of state subsidies that underpinned the sector and related industrial policy meant to direct it were being replaced.
The Automotive Production and Development Programme ends next year and a new SA Automotive Master Plan will come into effect, aiming to increase local content of cars built to 60 percent from 37.4 percent.
The master plan also sought to double the number of people working in the industry.
Delegates at the show said some of the targets might be too ambitious, while others noted the likely impact of new technology on everything from car ownership to the need for a more skilled workforce.
Jim welcomed the master plan as a major step but questioned why past policy frameworks that included “in excess of R300 billion of incentives” had not “transformed the auto industry and created jobs”.
He said subsidies had mainly benefited big automakers and urged the government to intervene.
“Numsa cannot be party to window dressing and government cannot continue spending billions… to support an industry that is not transforming, localising or creating jobs,” said Jim.
African News Agency (ANA)