Employers and South Africa’s largest trade union are due to resume talks today (Thursday) aimed at ending a strike that started this week threatening to drive the country into recession.
There have been incidents of vandalism and intimidation early in the action which is as much a political battle as it is to secure a better wage for workers in the engineering and metals sector.
The 220 000-strong National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa – known as NUMSA – is demanding a wage increase of 12 percent, which is almost twice the national inflation rate.
It’s also insisting on a housing allowance for members of seventy euros a month and a government ban on the use of labour brokers.
Employers have countered offering an eight percent pay hike locked in for three years.
General Secretary of the Confederation of South African Trade Unions Zwelinzima Vavi says the strike’s against a political system that continues to allow the exploitation of workers 20 years into the country’s democracy.
Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene’s expressed concern about the strike coming so soon after platinum miners downed tools for five months.
But government’s also concerned because NUMSA is seeking to break from the ruling ANC’s alliance with the trade union congress and form its own leftist party.