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 - A three-week wage strike by 220,000 workers in South Africa’s metals industry may be resolved by the close of the week after unions and employers held meetings over the weekend, a government official said.

“We are hopeful that the strike is going to be over by the end of this week,” Thembinkosi Mkalipi, acting deputy director-general for industrial relations at South Africa’s Labour Department, said today by phone.

“From our point of view, discussions between unions and employers went well.”

The stoppage, led by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, the country’s biggest labour group, began on July 1 and is affecting about 12,000 companies and carmakers including Toyota and General Motors’ units in South Africa.

It’s costing the metals industry about 300 million rand a day, according to the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa.

Unions and employers including Seifsa, as the body representing larger companies is known, held meetings on July 19 to end the strike.

Both sides are now discussing a settlement with their members and may announce a decision on it later today or early tomorrow, Mkalipi said.

The strike is threatening an economy still reeling from a five-month stoppage by platinum mineworkers that ended in June.

Africa’s second-biggest economy contracted 0.6 percent in the first quarter compared with a 3.8 percent expansion in the final three months of last year.

Unless it’s resolved, the metals strike may slow growth in the third quarter since it “would potentially have much wider ramifications because of the direct linkages to others sectors of the economy,” Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus said on July 17.

Numsa General Secretary Irvin Jim said July 17 that the union is willing to accept a two-year wage deal after rejecting a three-year package offered by Seifsa. - Bloomberg News