Numsa strike begins today

A last ditch attempt by the labour ministry to avert a mass strike by Numsa has failed.

FILE: Around 200,000 Numsa members are expected to down tools today. Picture: Mbali Sibanyoni/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - - As thousands of National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) members prepare to go on strike today, the union says it had no choice but to show employers they mean business.

Over 200,000 Numsa affiliated workers are seeking a 12 percent wage hike across the board, a R1,000 housing allowance increase and has also demanded the scrapping of labour brokers.

The mass action is expected to cripple the production of iron and steel, manufacturing and the automotive sectors.

There are also fears the strike could push South Africa's economy into a second 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.

A last ditch attempt by the labour ministry to avert the mass strike failed yesterday.

Numsa, the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (Seifsa) and Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant met at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration's offices in central Johannesburg late yesterday to try and resolve pending issues regarding collapsed wage negotiations.

Numsa has been urged to rethink its actions with employers saying the economy will suffer.

But the union's deputy general secretary Karl Cloete says the union has no choice but to strike.

"The industry is already 40 percent industry than the motor industry for instance and we have previously negotiated ourselves totally out of the market."

Seifsa chief executive Kaizer Nyatsumba has called on Numsa to reconsider returning to the negotiating table because the strike will potentially damage an already frail local economy.

"A strike isn't good for any economy, especially for our economy which has been ailing for the last few years."

Nyatsumba says he's hopeful the strike won't be protracted.

"Our economy has been bleeding terribly, and on top of that manufacturing in general has been doing very badly over the last few years, so we are concerned about any possible impact on the economy. We have offered seven percent to the higher earning workers and on the lower end of the scale, eight percent."

The strike could also 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.