Numsa to meet car makers

The meeting is expected to try and find a way to end the strike which entered its fourth day.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim speaks to reporters after a meeting of the trade union's central committee in Johannesburg, Thursday, 18 August 2011. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

CAPE TOWN - As a strike by thousands of workers in the automotive industry continues, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) denies there are ulterior motives behind the industrial action.

Unions are renegotiating a three-year wage agreement while labour is demanding a double-digit pay hike.

Employers are only offering eight percent at this stage.

Numsa is expected to meet with automobile manufacturers later today to try and find a way to end the strike, which has now entered its fourth day.

This strike has crippled the sector and halted production after 31,000 Numsa workers downed tools on Monday.

Workers are demanding a 14 percent increase across the board.

The union's national spokesperson Castro Ngobese says members don't want the leadership to suspend the strike, but only to listen to what employers have to offer.

"It's something that we can take back home and present to our members. It's something we'll be doing from tomorrow across all the plants that are on strike."

Labour economist, Loane Sharp, says the strike could have a devastating impact.

"It's going to take the average worker in the automotive sector three and half years to recover the pay loss while on strike due to the incremental wage increase. So these strikes don't really make any economic sense for workers."

Meanwhile, Numsa's Irvin Jim says the industrial action is all about securing a living wage for the workers.

"These members are not in Numsa because the general secretary is Irvin Jim. This strike is not informed by any opportunistic agendas."

Workers downed tools on Monday at the Toyota plant which signaled the start of the nationwide strike.

South Africa's auto industry contributes at least 6 percent to the country's GDP and 12 percent of its total exports.

The stoppage is likely to compound the woes of Africa's largest economy, where unrest in the mining sector has slowed growth.