Toyota staff join protest

2013-08-20 00:00

THE crippling effect of a prolonged automotive strike is something the city and province just cannot afford.

This stern warning from the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) follows in the wake of employees in the car manufacturing industry embarking on a national strike over wages yesterday. The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has meanwhile indicated it is not backing down.

About 80% of the employees at Toyota nationwide have joined the strike, spokesperson Leo Kok said yesterday. This means the company is unable to deliver stock to their 58 export clients spread over the rest of Africa and Europe.

The strike, called by Numsa, could affect over 30 000 assembly line workers, according to media reports.

Numsa national treasurer Mphumzi Maqungo told The Witness yesterday they were not backing down, given that they have been in negotiations for three months.

“Our negotiations started at 20% with the employer offering an eight percent increase in year one, seven percent in year two and another seven percent in year three of the new three-year wage deal. Our members allowed us to be flexible, but settle for nothing below 10%. We took our stand at 14%,” said Maqungo.

He said other demands included better night shift allowance than the 20% of their wages paid currently, and in some factories even less.

They want the employer to contribute 70% towards medical aid, where currently they contribute between 50% and 59%. Another demand is a transport allowance of R500 per month.

Kok said all unionised members had joined the strike. “The plant [in Durban] is closed and there is no production at the moment. We manufacture 729 units of cars daily. If the strike continues for an extended period of time, we will not be able to deliver on our export contracts to 58 export clients.”

Other car manufacturers such as Ford, General Motors and Nissan, were reported to have offered a six percent increase in wages.

DCCI chief operations and financial officer Praneel Nundkumar said one of the key strengths of the KZN region was the strong manufacturing sector. “Recent statistics have shown that up to 16% of the country’s manufacturing comes from within the province. A prolonged strike in this sector will therefore have a negative impact on the local economy.”

He said the the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA released a report showing that the strike will cost the country about R700 million a day and vehicle output will reduce by 3 000 per day. “A reduction in vehicle production will increase the balance of payments deficit and automotive trade deficit. The impact on business will be severe, but large manufacturers who foresaw the strike action may have stockpiled in the preceding weeks,” Nundkumar said.

Due to the manufacturing processes including last-minute orders, many of the suppliers to the manufacturing companies will be affected. This may result in companies putting employees on short time due to a lack of demand for car components, Nundkumar warned.

“The economy is already affected by a lack of confidence by foreign investors and strikes do not bode well to build confidence,” said Nundkumar.

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