Numsa's nationwide strike commences

Over 200,000 Numsa affiliates have embarked on industrial action for a 12% wage hike & housing allowance.

Hundreds of National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) members in Cape Town took to the street to demand pay hike in a nationwide strikeon 1 July 2014. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG/CAPE TOWN - Workers affiliated to the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) are currently gathered ahead of a protest march in both Johannesburg and Cape Town.

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

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

Strikers have this morning descended on the Johannesburg and Cape Town City Centres in their droves.

JOHANNESBURG

As thousands prepare to down tools in Johannesburg, Numsa says it was never its intention to embark on a strike.

The union's spokesperson Castro Ngobese says, "The bosses have forced us to call this strike and we cannot pre-empt how long it will take. But it depends on whether employers will come back to the bargaining table with a reasonable offer that our members will be willing to take."

Hundreds of union members are wearing red and blue t-shirts while some are 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.

CAPE TOWN

Striking workers in the Cape Town City Centre are making their presence felt as they prepare to march.

'A decent work and living wage now' is the message emblazoned on the shirts of some members and their posters and placards read 'We are fighting back'.

One Numsa member told Eyewitness News he has no other choice but to strike because he can't survive on the current wage.

"I am marching for a living wage because we can't live with our wages."

The strike could also impact Eskom operations, as workers at the power utility are also expected to down tools despite being declared essential services staffers.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

There are 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.

Meanwhile, 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."

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 by Aletta Gardner and Sebabatso Mosamo