SA strike shuts manufacturing plants, disrupts transport

Johannesburg - A strike by South African unions to demand an increase to the proposed national minimum wage shut down vehicle manufacturing plants and disrupted public transportation in some of the nation’s main cities.

The one-day national strike was called by the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), a group of 30 bodies representing almost 800 000 workers that says the hourly minimum wage of R20 amounts to “slave labour”.

It also wants the government to do more to address poverty and create jobs. Protests were staged in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and other cities.

Almost all the automotive plants were shut, said Nico Vermeulen, director of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa. Carmakers with a presence in South Africa include BMW, Ford and Toyota.

“One plant in the Pretoria region is operating with skeleton staff,” Vermeulen said by phone. Company and union officials will discuss how to make up the loss of production, he said.

Thirty-five percent of more than 350 companies surveyed by the National Employers Association of South Africa have been affected by the strike, with 8% experiencing a complete stay-away, according to Gerhard Papenfus, the group’s chief executive officer.

Eskom’s workers weren’t allowed to go on strike because it provides an essential service and its operations are continuing as normal, spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said by phone.

The three other biggest labour groups - the Cosatu, the Fedusa, and the National Council of Trade Unions - aren’t backing the strike.

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