Massive Numsa strike ‘inevitable’

More than 200,000 union members are prepared to down tools by next month.

Numsa General Secretary Irvin Jim.Picture: Sapa.

JOHANNESBURG - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) says it's now "inevitable" that more than 200,000 of its members will down tools next month.

It was earlier reported that the strike could begin as soon as next week but the industrial action is only expected to start on 1 July.

Numsa says talks in the metal and engineering sector collective bargaining council have been unproductive, leaving them no choice but to embark on the massive strike.

The union is demanding a 15 percent wage increase as well as a ban on labour brokers in the sector.

It also wants employers to reject the Youth Employment Tax Incentive, previously known as the Y outh Wage Subsidy.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim says he's well aware of the effect the strike will have on the economy but, based on past experience, "a strike is inevitable".

The economy experienced its first contraction since 2009 in the first quarter of this year, which has been largely blamed on the prolonged strike in the platinum mining sector.

Some economists have warned that any further delays in bringing the longest and costliest strike in South Africa's mining history to an end could push the country into a full recession, while a new strike as large as Numsa's would only make matters worse.

But the union maintains it cannot be held responsible for a collapsing economy, arguing that negotiators have been arrogant and unwilling to compromise.

Jim says his members are also mindful of the personal consequences they would face.

"We are fully aware of the huge burden the strike can have on our members," he says.

"However, reading from the mood of our members, it is a sacrifice they are ready to take, conscious of the fact that their united power can shake the bosses and halt production."