The National Association of Automotive Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) wants the quickest possible resolution to the looming wage negotiations between vehicle manufacturers and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), says Naamsa executive director and CEO Mike Mabasa.
He says a strike in the automotive sector will put “significant pressure” on the industry in the current challenging economic environment.
“Our biggest ask is for the original vehicle manufacturers (OEMs, or vehicle manufacturers) and unions to find each other as quickly as possible.”
New-vehicle sales for the first five months of the year are down 4.1% in the domestic market compared with the same period last year.
The automotive sector and Numsa in 2016 signed a three-year wage agreement, for a 10% increase in the first year and 8% in the consecutive years.
This agreement comes to an end on June 30.
Wage negotiations between Numsa and the vehicle manufacturing sector are normally followed by negotiations in the component manufacturing and retail sector, as well as the tyre manufacturing industry, sometimes leading to protracted strikes affecting vehicle output in South Africa.
Negotiations in 2016 were completed without strike action. However, 2013 saw a three-week strike in the vehicle manufacturing industry and a four-week strike in the component sector.
Numsa’s leadership has already met with the top brass of the seven vehicle manufacturers in South Africa, in an effort to draft the bargaining process agreement (BPA), which will guide the negotiation process.
The seven vehicle manufacturers are Isuzu, BMW, Ford, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Volkswagen, employing around 29 000 people.
According to Numsa this meeting failed to deliver the desired results, with the union on Thursday firing the first salvo in what may prove to be a tough round of negotiations.
Numsa said in a statement that it wanted to confirm the issue of back pay with OEMs, “in case wage talks went beyond the allocated time”.
The OEMs, however, said Numsa must place the issue of back pay on the table as a demand, instead of it being a principle of the BPA.
Two OEM CEOs have indicated to Engineering News Online that they expect a strike in the vehicle manufacturing sector this year, and that they are currently building up stock in anticipation of labour action.
An industry analyst suggests that Numsa may use this year’s negotiations to bolster its reputation, impacted by the May 8 national elections, when its Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP) could only garner around 24 000 votes, which does not equate to a seat in Parliament.
Numsa has more than 350 000 members, which means Numsa members did not support the SWRP at the polls.
Numsa formed the SRWP to contest the elections, with general-secretary Irvin Jim appointed as party chairperson.
* The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) has applied for recognition in the automotive industry.
** This year will see the introduction of the private polling of union members prior to triggering a strike, or when considering a wage offer.