GM halts SA car plant over strike

Members of Numsa march for better wages in Cape Town. (Nardus Engelbrecht, Sapa)
Members of Numsa march for better wages in Cape Town. (Nardus Engelbrecht, Sapa)

Johannesburg - US auto giant GM said on Friday it had suspended production at its main South African assembly plant in Port Elizabeth because of a strike at components suppliers.

"The plant has been shut since yesterday because of the parts supplier issues," GM spokesperson Denise van Huyssteen said.

Another producer, South Africa's biggest packaging group, Nampak [JSE:NPK], said about 40% of the 4 000 employees in its metals and rigid plastics division had failed to report for work.

The economic damage is already being felt across the country as the stoppage hits supplies of beverage cans and auto parts. The automotive sector might have to halt production if it continues beyond a week.

Meanwhile, Numsa has rejected an increased wage offer, employers' group Seifsa said on Friday.

Seifsa also said it received reports of "serious incidents of violence" by strikers.

The South African police said on Thursday officers had fired rubber bullets to disperse workers blocking the entrance to the construction site of state power utility Eskom's Medupi power station.

The strike in the metals and engineering sectors by over 200 000 Numsa members began on Tuesday, dealing a fresh blow to Africa's most advanced economy after a five-month platinum mining stoppage that ended last week.

The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) said it had tabled wage hikes of up to 10%, up from 8% previously. The union wants increases of 12% to 15%, more than double the inflation rate.

"Regrettably, it would appear that we continue to be miles apart with the union," Seifsa chief executive Kaizer Nyatsumba said in a statement.

The offer was made during late-night talks on Thursday between the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and Seifsa. A Numsa spokesperson earlier declined to comment on the outcome of the talks.

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