Oliphant condemns violent strike

The minister called on all sides to break the deadlock in wage negotiations in the automotive strike.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) during strike in northern Johannesburg on 09 September 2013. Picture: Mbali Sibanyoni/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant on Wednesday condemned violence by striking workers in the petrol and automotive sectors.

She also called on all sides to increase efforts to find common ground and break the deadlock in wage negotiations.

Workers affiliated to the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) have been on strike for 10 days now.

They vowed to continue with their industrial action until wage demands are met.

Last week, Numsa rejected the latest offer of 7.5 percent for petrol attendants and car repair workers.

But employees are still demanding a double-digit pay increase.

Allegations of violence and intimidation have emerged in many areas across South Africa.

A Somali petrol attendant died at the weekend after he was allegedly attacked by striking workers last week.

The 55-year-old victim was allegedly attacked at a Grassy Park petrol station while he and a colleague were working.

He died at Cape Town's Groote Schuur Hospital on Saturday.

Labour Department spokesperson Musa Zondi said while people have the right to strike, they don't have the right to engage in violence or intimidate others.

The department also released its Industrial Action Annual Report.

The document showed a significant increase in the number of strikes last year, compared to the previous four years.

In 2012, the mining sector was in the spotlight with several unprotected strikes which resulted in violence and a number of deaths.

According to the report, there were 99 strikes recorded last year alone.

Around 44 percent of them were unprotected and most of the workers involved were from the mining industry.

It says R6.6 billion in wages were lost due to strikes in 2012.

A key feature of the industrial action last year was the heightened violence.

Gauteng continues to account for the largest number of work stoppages across the country.

The most violent incident occurred at Lonmin's Marikana mine in the North West, where 44 people died during the month-long strike.