The union representing workers in the motoring industry in South Africa has threatened a countrywide strike action if their wage demands are not met.
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) said it had met with employers in the motor sector including the Retail Motor Industries (RMI) and the Fuel Retail Association (FRA) for wage negotiations under the auspices of the Motor Industries Bargaining Council.
This sector represents employees in components-manufacturing companies, petrol stations and car dealerships.
It employs about 306 000 workers nationally. Numsa represents the majority, which is at least 90 000 members.
The union is demanding a one-year agreement and a 12% across-the-board wage increase.
“We represent garage workers. The lowest-paid are employed as chars and are earning a minimum of R21 per hour. Workers and their families are enduring extreme economic distress in South Africa. The cost of living is high. Food prices have skyrocketed and workers are struggling to make ends meet.
“A 12% increase will make the biggest difference especially for those who are the lowest earners. We reject the narrative that members of the working class should accept poverty wages,” Numsa said in a statement.
“The working class is responsible for creating wealth in this country. When economists report GDP growth, they are referring to the sweat and blood and toil of the working class. That growth is only possible because workers make it possible.”
Numsa said it had held three rounds of wage talks with bosses in the sector since March 23 but on each occasion the employer had not tabled an offer.
Numsa presented its wage demands and said that the management wanted the demands to be reduced.
“They have not made an offer. They may as well have put zero on the table. The agreement expires on August 30 and it is obvious that employers are using delay tactics. They are pushing us into a corner with this behaviour and we will be forced to strike.
“And when we embark on a strike, the very same employers and the media will blame workers for threatening the sector and the economy. We condemn the employers for this outrageous behaviour. This is an attack on workers who are responsible for carrying this sector on their backs during the most difficult times, caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” the union said.
“Our members are supporting the backbone of thousands of small and medium-sized companies and the employers are threatening the survival of all of these businesses with their reckless actions by deliberately provoking our members into embarking on strike action.
“We call on all small business owners to pressurise the FRA and the RMI into going back to the negotiation table because they will suffer the most should we embark on a nationwide strike.
“Last year we embarked on a total shutdown of the engineering sector for three weeks, when employers displayed the very same arrogance that we are experiencing now,” Numsa added.
The union said it was scheduled to meet with the relevant parties yesterday and today under the auspices of the dispute resolution committee of Motor Industries Bargaining Council with the view to breaking the deadlock.
“If we fail to find one another, then unfortunately we will be headed for a national strike. We will then proceed with picketing rules and insist that a certificate of strike is issued.
“A strike can be avoided. All we are asking for is meaningful engagement. Numsa remains ready to talk and we urge them to work with us to resolve this impasse,” Numsa said.