Johannesburg - The spectre of a strike in the retail motor industry, including the automotive component manufacturing sector, has become a real possibility following the issuance of a certificate on non-resolution to the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) last week.

The certificate was issued following a negotiation session with the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI).

Jackie Oliver, the chief executive of the RMI, which represents 19 000 businesses that collectively employ 300 000 people, confirmed on Friday that a certificate of non-resolution was issued to Numsa.

Oliver said this meant that Numsa could give the retail motor industry 48 hours notice of a strike.

However, Oliver said both parties had committed to continue with discussions and test certain principles and wage proposals.

Requests for comment from Numsa were unsuccessful.

A strike by the retail motor industry in 2013 halted production at vehicle manufacturing plants because of a shortage of automotive components.

Oliver said the major issue still in dispute with Numsa was the wage increase in each of the three years of the proposed agreement.

He said the RMI was substantially far apart from Numsa’s demand of a 9 percent wage increase with an 8 percent wage hike in each of the following two years. Oliver said the RMI had offered a wage increase of 7 percent in each of the three years.

“Personally I believe we are close enough to reach an agreement without a strike and are confident about reaching a settlement. But it will take leadership (from the parties) to get resolution,” he said.

Oliver said Numsa was demanding that wage increases in the retail motor industry should be in line with the increases agreed with the vehicle manufacturers.

The Automotive Manufacturers Employers’ Organisation and Numsa last month agreed on a 10 percent wage increase in the first year of a three-year agreement with an 8 percent wage hike in each of the following two years.

Car sales down

However, Oliver said the majority of companies in the retail motor industry were small businesses and could not afford the same wage increase in the context of what was happening in the economy with car sales and exports being down.

“This is the reality and it impacts on small businesses. We still hope to convince Numsa about this particular scenario,” he said.

Oliver said wage increases of the magnitude being demanded by Numsa would lead to severe pressure and job losses in the retail motor industry.