South Africa Hit By Engineering Strike

South Africa StrikeEngineering and metal workers in South Africa have gone on strike after talks on Monday failed to reach an agreement over pay.

The country’s largest union, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), claims that more than 200,000 members are striking.

The union is demanding a 12% wage increase, almost double the rate of inflation. So far employers have offered an 8% pay rise.

Marches are taking place in six major cities across the country, including Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.

NUMSA also wants to receive a housing allowance of 1000 rand ($94;) a month. The union’s secretary-general Irvin Jim has said it will not settle for less than a double-digit increase.

“We have a long list of demands that has been reduced because we have to be objective,” he told the BBC.

“Originally we had a mandate for demanding 15% [pay increase]… but we have reduced that to 12%”. The union has about 340,000 members in total, but only around two-thirds were planning to go on strike.

The union is also demanding a pay increase at energy utility, Eskom, and says it will picket outside the firm’s headquarters on Wednesday morning.

The power company supplies the vast majority of South Africa’s electricity and is deemed an essential service, therefore any strike would not be legal.

There are concerns that if the picket turns into a strike, then South Africa’s already fragile power sector could be vulnerable to disruption.

However, Mr Jim believes it should be allowed to strike and blamed Eskom’s management for giving “bonuses to themselves” without seeing the “need to give workers a living wage”.

“With Eskom we have said to them for years now, let’s sit down and deal with the issue of demarcation, because as a union we firmly believe it is not true that the whole of Eskom is an essential service.

“We could have departments that will not affect electricity… and they could be able to carry the plight of other workers by embarking on a legally protected strike,” he said.

This latest industrial action comes only a week after the end of a five-month long strike at South Africa’s platinum mines, which crippled the sector.

In the first three months of this year, South Africa’s GDP shrank by 0.6%, the first contraction since 2009. — BBC

Should NUMSA’s strike be prolonged, there are worries it could have a damaging effect on the South African economy. — BBC

 

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