Roy Cokayne

About 1 500 hourly paid workers at the Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa’s manufacturing plant in Silverton in Pretoria have embarked on an unprotected strike ahead of the planned protected strike in the motor manufacturing industry from Monday.

Rella Bernardes, a Ford SA spokeswoman, confirmed yesterday that workers had downed tools on Wednesday.

Bernardes said these employees were under the mistaken impression that the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) had served the Automobile Manufacturers Employers Organisation (Ameo) with the 48 hours’ notice to strike on Monday and the strike had therefore started on Wednesday.

Ameo chief negotiator and chairman Thapelo Molapo confirmed yesterday that Numsa had given motor manufacturers 48 hours notice of strike action on Wednesday afternoon and workers would go on strike from Monday.

Bernardes said Ford SA was investigating the unprotected strike but declined to say whether it would take disciplinary action.

The strike is restricted to the Silverton plant and has resulted in the loss of production of about 335 Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50 units a day. The engine plant in Port Elizabeth has been unaffected.

It follows a strike at BMW South Africa’s plant in Rosslyn over shift allowances since last Thursday, which has halted production.

Guy Kilfoil, a BMW SA spokesman, said earlier this week that the strike was baffling to BMW SA because shift allowances were among the items being discussed in negotiations at the motor industry bargaining council over a new agreement and when shift allowances were finalised, any changes would be retroactive to July 1.

Of BMW SA’s annual production of 82 000 units, 69 900 units were exported, he said.

The motor manufacturing sector strike is likely to have a significant impact on automotive component suppliers.

Mark Roberts, the convenor of the component manufacturing sector at the motor industry bargaining council, said yesterday that it would have little impact initially on component suppliers but would later result in manufacturers telling suppliers to stop deliveries, which would then result in component manufacturers having to put their workers on short time.

Roberts said negotiations with Numsa over a new agreement for the automotive component sector was “still work in progress”. These negotiations are not handled by Ameo but form part of a separate chapter in negotiations between Numsa and the retail motor industry.