THE National Union of Metalworkers of SA warned on Tuesday that, despite recent agreement to avoid strikes, production at major car manufacturers could be hit if union members downed tools in the components sector.
Numsa said a campaign to collapse collective bargaining was becoming visible in the motor retail industry, where it is seeking a double-digit deal.
"If the component sector goes on strike, it means the entire auto sector that has settled now would be dragged into strike," said union general secretary Irvin Jim.
On Friday, Numsa reached a three-year pay deal in the vehicle-assembly sector with manufacturers including BMW, Ford and Toyota. Numsa said the deal was for a 35% increase over three years,
The deal had put off the question of reorganising collective bargaining along value chains — a "mega bargaining council" — until 2019.
Numsa members had resolved to push for change in collective bargaining after recognising that the fragmented nature of manufacturing could weaken shop-floor bargaining power.
But Numsa was preparing for a strike in the motor retail sector — including panel beaters, filling stations, tyres and components — where employers were offering a 7% pay rise and unions demanding 15%.
The 2014 strike in this sector followed a three-week strike on car assembly lines.
A one-year pay deal at car assemblers, the retail motor industry and the tyre sector would have seen the union negotiating in its largest bargaining councils in 2017, including the Metals and Engineering Industry Bargaining Council (Meibc).
Collective agreements struck in the council face a legal challenge from the National Employers Association of SA (Neasa).
Jim said those employers were "emboldened by the court judgment obtained by the Free Market Foundation, which spelled out how employers can deal with the extension of bargaining agreements to other employers who are not party to such agreements".
He said they wanted to "destroy collective bargaining in these sectors".
Numsa deputy general secretary Karl Cloete said: "We can safely say it is not just the Meibc that the employers want to collapse … it is in the motor industry as well."
But Neasa CE Gerhard Papenfus dismissed the claim that his association was trying to collapse centralised bargaining
"If there is a good deal and it is a valid agreement there is no reason to do that," said Papenfus.
He said the Neasa challenge to the 2014/15 Meibc agreement, was based on it being "unlawfully entered into and unlawfully extended".
Meibc is said to be struggling financially after an agreement on levies lapsed in June, reducing its income 20%-30%.