Picture: BLOOMBERG
Picture: BLOOMBERG

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) has given the strongest indication yet that it could embark on strike action to force embattled automotive sector bosses to accede to their demands.

On Wednesday, Mphumzi Maqungo, treasurer of Numsa, said the last round of negotiations between the union and employers will be held in Port Elizabeth from July 30 to August 2.

“We have set aside these four days to purely fight and see whether we can’t find a solution and reach an agreement. If we don’t reach an agreement, we will strike. I don’t want to lie. We can’t be massaging each others’ egos for far too long.”

Maqungo said Numsa will hold its automotive national shop steward council on Monday July 29 to consolidate feedback from its members on the 4.5% offer from the Automobile Manufacturers Employers Organisation (AMEO). The feedback will then be taken to the last round of negotiations in Port Elizabeth for consideration.

Numsa is demanding a one-year, 20% wage increase across the board; as well as morning, afternoon and night allowances of 10%, 20% and 30%, respectively.

In addition, the union is demanding an annual bonus increase from 8.33% to 12%; six months’ paid maternity leave and 10 days paid paternity leave; as well as a transport allowance of R5,000 a month. Numsa also wants clerks, welders, spray painters and metal-finish workers to be paid a 20% allowance.

However, SA’s automotive industry has been struggling to grow sales faster in recent months as debt-laden consumers battling job losses put off buying cars and other big-ticket items. The latest industry figures show that new-car sales continued to lose ground in June, falling 1.6%, bringing the decline so far in 2019 to 3.7%.

The automotive sector is one of the key pillars of the economy as it contributes more than 7% to GDP, which contracted 3.2% in the first quarter of 2019.

In his state of the nation address in June, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that SA had to revitalise and expand its productive sectors if it was to meet its GDP growth targets of 1.3% in 2019 and 1.7% in 2020.

AMEO spokesperson Andile Dlamini confirmed that the wage negotiations would resume next week and said that it was difficult to say for how long negotiations would go on.

“We will see what the outcome will be. There is no clear indication when everything will be concluded. We will see how next week goes. We are hopeful there will be productive discussions.”

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za