South Africa: Metalworkers Demonstrate As Strike Season Starts

South African workers demonstrate (file photo).

Radio France Internationale (Paris)

by Jean-Jacques Cornish

5 July 2011

South Africa’s strike season has begun with thousands of engineering and metalworkers taking to the streets of the country’s main cities in support of wage demands.

Refineries were set to stop work Tuesday, with negotiations going on in other sectors.

More than 110,000 of them are out demanding a 13 per cent wage hike. Employers have countered with an offer of seven per cent.

The strike was called by the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) after wage negotiations broke down.

Employers say their seven per cent offer comfortably exceeds the national inflation rate of four point six per cent.

Numsa secretary general Frans Baleni says there can be no retreat in the fight for a living wage.

Speaking to thousands of workers gathered in central Johannesburg he says the union has to deliver a decent wage to its members.

Peaceful marches were held in the coastal cities of Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and East London.

There was, however, some stone-throwing and damage to vehicles at the march in Durban.

The Cape chamber of commerce warns that the strike will drive small businesses to the wall as the country recovers from the global economic crisis.

Workers traditionally flex their industrial muscle in this mid-winter period at the end of South Africa’s fiscal year when many contracts expire.

Oil deposts and fuel refineries will be hit by a strike starting Tuesday.

Gold and coal miners will resume pay talks later this week.

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