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South Africa Metalworkers Cut Pay Demand to 10% Increase

Strike in South Africa
Workers hold placards as they demonstrate on the first day of a nationwide strike called by South Africa's National Union of Metalworkers to demand a pay raise and better working conditions, in Johannesburg, on July 1, 2014. Photographer: Mujahid Safodien/AFP via Getty Images

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, the country’s biggest labor group, reduced its wage demand to 10 percent from 12 percent and said it’s willing to end its strike if employers agree to a one-year deal.

“We are ready to end the current strike with a one-year agreement and a 10 percent wage increase,” Numsa’s General Secretary Irvin Jim told reporters today in Johannesburg, declining to explain why the union altered its demand. “If employers want a three-year agreement, they must meet workers’ demand of double-digit increases. The strike continues and we call on our members to intensify the strike.”

The strike involving more than 220,000 workers in the manufacturing and engineering industry is affecting about 12,000 employers including Nampak Ltd., the continent’s biggest can manufacturer, and carmakers such as General Motors Co. and Evraz Highveld Steel. As the work stoppage enters its third week, the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa, an employers’ lobby, is offering a three-year package.

“We are discussing solidarity actions to intensify the strike,” Numsa president Andrew Chirwa said during the presentation to reporters. Numsa’s national strike committee will meet tomorrow, he said.

Seifsa said today it was disappointed Numsa rejected a “final offer” intended to end the strike. The lobby said in an e-mailed statement it made the best possible offer, and had now exhausted its mandate.

“We have done everything that we could possibly have done to end the strike and we deeply regret the fact that all our efforts have been in vain,” chief executive Kaizer Nyatsumba said in the statement. It is unfortunate that the strike “appears set to continue indefinitely,” he said.

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