South African Automaker Strike Set to Intensify as Workers March

South African carworkers are demanding a double-digit wage increase for three years and will intensify a two-week-long strike if their demands aren’t met, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa said.

Numsa last met employers to discuss wage increases for its members on Aug. 29, national treasurer Mphumzi Maqungo said in an interview at a protest march today in Pretoria, the capital. The union wants to restart negotiations and resolve the strike, he said. “We are hoping that employers come back with a better offer before” Sept. 5., he said.

About 30,000 workers at plants owned by companies including Toyota Motor Corp. (7203), Volkswagen AG (VOW), and Ford Motor Co. (F) have been on strike since Aug. 19, costing the industry as much as 700 million rand ($68.2 million) a day, according to the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa. At least 500 workers marched toward the Naamsa headquarters in Pretoria, carrying signs bearing slogans such as ‘equal pay’ and singing songs demanding better wages.

About 90,000 construction workers have also downed tools and gold miners are due to walk out later today as wage negotiations deadlock across Africa’s biggest economy. Work stoppages have already shaved 30 basis points, or 0.3 percentage point, off gross domestic product this year, President Jacob Zuma said on June 13.

Numsa wants a wage increase of at least 10 percent for three years as well as various benefits including better medical aid and shift flexibility, the union said in a letter of demands handed to reporters. Employers proposed an offer that included a 10 percent annual pay rise for three years that was rejected by the union last month, Maqungo said by phone on Aug 26.

The strike “will have major adverse consequences for South Africa,” Naamsa said in an e-mailed statement on Aug. 30. Companies and workers must find a solution to strikes that are “not helpful” to the country, Zuma told reporters in Pretoria today.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kamlesh Bhuckory in Johannesburg at kbhuckory@bloomberg.net; Amogelang Mbatha in Johannesburg at ambatha@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Thiel at sthiel1@bloomberg.net

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