The recent Numsa (National Metalworkers of SA) strike in the metals and engineering industries crippled the auto industry for four weeks. Car makers like Ford, Toyota, Nissan, BMW and General Motors were all affected. Spare parts started to run out, so very little could be accomplished on production lines.

Manufacturers not mainly dependent on metals, like Andy Cab, could thankfully continue to operate as normal. The hit the economy took does affect us all however. Estimates put the cost of the strike at R300 million a day.

So what did it take to get union members back at work?

It was a three-year wage agreement that will secure increases of up to 10% each year. Lower income earners will reap the most rewards from the agreement, getting a 10% increase each year, while those in higher income brackets will receive between 7% and 8%.

But not all signatures have been added to the proverbial dotted line. The National Employers’ Association of SA (Neasa) does not agree with the proposed wage increases, saying that their members cannot afford more than 8% increases. Neasa represents mainly small and medium-sized business and they’re willing to go to labour court to defend the interests of these companies.

Irvin Jim, general secretary of Numsa, has shared Numsa’s view on the matter with the media, saying that all companies will have to comply with the agreement once it’s passed through parliament. Those still holding strong and saying they can’t afford the increases, will have to apply for exemption and prove their case.

What now?

The outtake for many from this strike, as well as the five-month long strike in the platinum industry earlier this year, is that industry, government and unions should work together on finding better ways to deal with grievances. Their combined efforts will not only serve their best interests, but the South African economy too.

Leave a Reply

Add a comment