By Gugulakhe Lourie
JOHANNESBURG, Aug 11 (Reuters) - South African autoworkers
seeking wage increases more than triple the inflation rate went
on an indefinite strike on Wednesday, hitting auto production in
Africa's largest economy.
The powerful National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa
(NUMSA), which represents 31,000 autoworkers, said it had
rejected employers' offer of a 7 percent increase in the first
year and a raise equal to consumer price inflation in the
remaining two years.
The union is demanding a 15 percent wage increase, well
above inflation which was at 4.2 percent in July.
"We are having demonstrations at plant levels in the Eastern
Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal," union spokesman Castro Ngobese
NUMSA has asked an industry group -- which represents seven
companies including Toyota Motor Corp, Ford Motor, Volkswagen AG
and General Motors Co -- for a one-year agreement guaranteeing a
15 percent wage rise.
The other companies are Nissan Motor, BMW and Daimler AG's
"The employers should come on board because we have been
negotiating with them for a period of more than two months now.
Nothing has come out concretely out of those negotiations," said
The South African unit of German carmaker BMW said its local
plant was closed as of Wednesday until the strike was over.
"There is no way we can build cars without workers. There is
no contingency plan in place," said Guy Kilfoil, a BMW spokesman
in South Africa, adding he hoped the strike will be resolved
soon through the Automobile Manufacturers Employers Organisation
Other carmakers and the industry body were not immediately
available for comment.
Ngobese said about 6,000 workers in tyre manufacturing are
not going to strike.
A strike could have a big impact on a South African auto
industry that is already struggling to remain competitive.
Motor vehicle production in South Africa is expected to hit
443,000 units in 2010 from 374,000 last year, according to the
National Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
South Africa's government sees auto manufacturing as a key
industry to help boost growth and jobs and has tried to help
carmarkers build up exports.
Separately, more than a million South African public sector
workers staged a one-day strike on Tuesday, threatening an
extended labour stoppage this week.
The unions have set a Thursday deadline for the government
to reach a deal.
(Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Michael Shields)