Numsa strike could push SA into recession

Over 220,000 members of Numsa will down tools tomorrow in the metal and engineering sector.

FILE: Striking Numsa members. Picture:Vumani Mkhize/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Over 220,000 members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) will down tools tomorrow in the metal and engineering industry.

The strike in the engineering, communications and automotive sectors follows three months of failed wage talks.

Numsa is seeking a 12 percent wage hike across the board, a R1,000 rand housing allowance increase and has also demanded the scrapping of labour brokers.

The union says there's still a R219 difference between the employers' offer and the union's demands.

The mass action is expected to cripple the production of iron and steel, manufacturing and the automotive sectors and economists have warned it could push South Africa into recession.

It could also hit South Africa's poor GDP figures, which contracted 0,6 percent in the first quarter of 2014 - the first contraction since 2009.

The sluggish figures were in part blamed on the protracted wage strike in the platinum mining sector.

If South Africa experiences another contraction in the second quarter, the country will officially be in recession.

Numsa deputy general secretary Karl Cloete says, "We are going into strike action where the gap is fairly close between the employers and ourselves. We are insistent that we will only settle the strike on the clear understanding that there is a double-digit increase."

Meanwhile, the union has also warned that an unprotected strike is also on the cards at Eskom.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim says they are aware of the declaration of Eskom's projects as essential services, but will strike if demands aren't met.

"If Eskom's leadership isn't going to move decisively and make an offer that will address the plight of our members, we will be left with no option but to allow our members to liberate themselves."

The strike could have a major impact on the construction of Eskom's Medupi and Kusile power stations, which are already behind schedule.

Electricity shortages in part have been blamed for South Africa's sluggish economic growth.