Motor-industry strike remains deadlocked

A strike by National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) petrol attendants and vehicle-industry workers continued today after negotiations with employers deadlocked, the Retail Motor Industry organisation (RMI) said.

Chief executive Jakkie Olivier said there was “very little” progress during negotiations last night.

“We discussed various proposals, but some issues, which seem to be core issues, remain.”

These core issues had serious financial implications for employers, as they affected workers’ cost to company.

Previously Olivier said one such example was workers’ demand for a reduction in working time, from 45 hours a week to 40 hours, without a cut in remuneration.

“The approach of unions, that one shoe fits all, is impossible,” Olivier said today.

“I remain fairly positive, despite the fact that some issues remain challenging. Both parties seriously need to test (the proposals on the table) with their constituencies.” The outstanding matters were complex and required patience, Olivier said.

The strike began on September 9, with Numsa demanding a double-digit percentage increase, and a R30-an-hour across-the-board increase by 2016 on actual rates of pay in all sectors and divisions for workers earning above R6 000 a month, among other demands.

Olivier said negotiations would resume in earnest on Wednesday, but leaders would continue meeting in the interim to discuss how the impasse could be resolved.

Numsa spokesperson Castro Ngobese said he could not immediately comment on yesterday’s meeting, but would issue a press statement later today.

Last week, the union rejected a revised wage offer of 7.5%.

The strike has been marred by reports of intimidation and violence. On Tuesday, the RMI was granted an urgent interdict by the Johannesburg Labour Court to prevent violence by striking workers.

According to the court order, Numsa and its members are prohibited from preventing nonstriking employees from reporting for work, obstructing entrances or exits of RMI premises, assaulting or threatening to assault customers, damaging RMI property or carrying a weapon.

On Wednesday, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant condemned violence accompanying the strike, saying this undermined workers’ genuine demands.

“There is no reason whatsoever for industrial action to be accompanied by violence … Our laws guarantee the right to protest,” she said in a statement.

She condemned recent reports of violence in New Germany, KwaZulu-Natal, where a petrol attendant was seriously injured in an altercation, believed to be strike related.

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