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Union urges car bosses to give in

2010-08-17 08:15
The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) on Monday urged vehicle manufacturers to display "soberness" and give in to workers' demands.

"We are conscious of the fact that the automotive industry is the leading manufacturing sector in the economy of our country with the largest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contribution," spokesman Castro Ngobese said in a statement.

It was, further, a strategic pillar of the economy.

Already the Automobile Manufacturers Employers Organisation (Ameo) "oligarchy" was losing close to R12.5-million a day and production had collapsed in all the plants as a result of Numsa's actions.

"Given the above picture, Ameo should apply soberness by conceding to the demands of workers," Ngobese said. "Ameo has wasted enough time by engaging us (union) last Thursday and Friday by convening impromptu and 'golf-course style' negotiations from which no reasonable offer ever came up to meet workers' demands,"

It was within this context that Numsa would intensify strike action as part of advancing an agenda that was grounded on the equitable distribution of income at the point of production in future bargaining.

Numsa's "simple demands" included a one year-agreement, a 15% across-the-board wage increase, short time/lay-off payment at 100%, labour brokers to be scrapped, working hours of eight hours a day from Monday to Friday, Saturday work to be paid at one-and-a-half rates and Sundays and public holidays work to be paid double.

The union said employers were sticking to an offer of a 7% iincrease.

It had never been Numsa's intention to strike but "because of AMEO's stubbornness we are compelled to take the battle to the streets as from" August 17 and 18 in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Gauteng, Ngobese said..

"Militant actions"

"These two days of rolling mass-action as resolved by our members will neither be picnics nor fan parks, but militant actions until our demands are met," he said.

Earlier in the day, an industry spokesman said South Africa's vehicle exports had stalled because of the ongoing strike.

"If you cannot service the market, then labels source from other places because, remember, there is spare capacity because of the recession," said Automobile Manufacturer Employers' Organisation (Ameo) spokesman Harry Gazendam. "Once you lose those export markets, it is very hard to get them back.

"You can't stockpile cars because they take up space. Whatever stock they (local manufacturers) had is sold out," he said.

Ordinarily, the local automobile industry produced 3000 units a day, half of which were for export.

"No vehicles have been built since last Wednesday," Gazendam said.

Toyota SA spokesman Leo Kok confirmed that his company had ceased exports. "What I can say is that production has halted since the start of the strike. From today [Monday] we are in a position where we can no longer export vehicles," Kok said.

"What is concerning for us is damage to image."

Output aligned for export

Kok said Toyota factories in other countries were competing with each other by bidding on contracts.

"We are assessed on quality, cost, productivity and, of course, stability of supply. A strike like this puts us in a very bad light," he said.

While present exports were under contract, the strike's affect on productivity would likely be a consideration in future bidding.

"We bid against other manufacturing plants. When it's fresh in the memory, it does affect the bidding," Kok said.

Toyota's output of 220 000 vehicles a year was aligned for exports as the domestic market could not absorb that many vehicles. Losing export contracts would have an adverse impact on the company.

Kok said the strike came at a bad time as Toyota had been increasing production due to global demand rising in the aftermath of last year's economic turndown.

Numsa workers began their strike on Wednesday. 

The union said employers were sticking to an offer of a 7% increase.

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