Numsa strike begins

Over 200,000 Numsa affiliated workers are seeking a 12 percent wage hike across the board.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) members during strike action in Johannesburg on 1 July 2014. Picture: Sebabatso Mosamo/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Striking National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) members are making their way to various gathering points around the country as the union prepares to embark on its mass action.

In Johannesburg, hundreds of workers affiliated to six unions in the metal and automotive industries have started gathering in Newtown, Johannesburg, ahead of the nationwide strike.

Union members are wearing red and blue shirts, while some can be seen holding sticks and shamboks.

Placards with 'Give us our money please', 'Sifuni 12 percent nomakanjani', 'No labour brokers' and 'Viva Numsa chelete' can be seen among the large crowd.

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.

The National Employers Association of South Africa (Neasa) says the strike is uncalled for.

Neasa chief executive Gerhard Papenfus says the strike is not in the best interest of workers.

"I think there is more to this than simply just money. I think it's a bit of a show of force."

But Numsa's deputy general secretary Karl Cloete says the union has done all it can to avert the strike.

"We have made all of the endeavours to get closer to reaching a settlement. Clearly from where we are now we had no other choice but to embark on strike action."

MINISTRY FAILS AT AVERTING STRIKE

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.

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."

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.

ESKOM WARNS WORKERS

Eskom has warned of disciplinary action if any of its essential services workers join the national strike.

It's feared Eskom's operations will be affected by the industrial action.

Eskom's Andrew Etzinger says, "From time to time we are faced with threats of industrial action and of course we do take it very seriously. We've been through this before and we have contingency plans in place. We've put them in place for today."

IMAGES: Sebabatso Mosamo/EWN