Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/LEON SADIKI
Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/LEON SADIKI

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) is expected to meet employers at the Motor Industry Bargaining Council on Monday to try to break the wage deadlock in the sector.

The motor industry sector employs about 306,000 people at petrol stations, car dealerships and component companies countrywide.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said the union has  referred its dispute with the sector employers to the dispute resolution committee with the hope that “they can help us break the deadlock”.

Jim accused employer bodies — including the National Employers Association of SA, the Retail Motor Industry Organisation and the Fuel Retailers Association — of “refusing to engage with all the demands” the union has tabled.

The union is calling for a 12% across-the-board wage increase, against the employers’ proposal of a 5% increase a year for three years.

Numsa wants the wage threshold for all workers to be aligned with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act for all sectors.

Some workers, such as those working at fuel stations, do not receive overtime pay, annual bonuses, transport allowances and other benefits that are stipulated in the act, Jim said. The lack of a transport allowance puts workers at risk and exposes them to muggings and sexual assault, he said.

The industry has been dogged by poor vehicle sales, among other issues, and is considering other African countries for export opportunities.

According to figures released by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa), the demand for cars and commercial vehicles in August fell 5.1% from a year earlier.

Naamsa said that out of the total reported industry sales of 45,537 vehicles, an estimated 81.6% represented dealer sales, 12.6% represented sales to the vehicle rental industry, 3.9% to industry corporate fleets and 1.9% to the government.

“By the end of August, aggregate industry sales for 2019, at 349,203, were 3.9% behind the 363,243 at the same stage in 2018. Car sales at end-August were 5.7% down, from 239,823 to 226,069,” it said.

Petrol prices for both grades rose 11c a litre in September, while diesel went up 26c a litre.

The scheduled meeting between Numsa and employers on Monday comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa met executives of vehicle maker Nissan in Yokohama as part of his recent working visit to Japan, where he was promoting SA as an investment-friendly destination.

Meanwhile, Numsa is locked in protracted wage talks with automotive sector employers of the Automobile Manufacturers Employers Organisation (Ameo). It is demanding a 20% wage increase across the board from employers including BMW, Nissan, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota.

Ameo has offered a 4.5% increase, in line with the country’s inflation rate.

The automotive sector contributes more than 7% to the economy, which grew 0.8% in 2018. The economy contracted 3.2%, or R56bn, in the first quarter of 2019, while the unemployment rate jumped from 27.6% to 29% in the second quarter.

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za