Car Manufacturing (Gallo Images)

Workers in the industry are demanding a 14 percent across-the-board wage increase.

"Employers, including giants Toyota, BMW, General Motors and Nissan are only offering 6 percent, an increase which does no more than make up for what they have lost through inflation, which is currently estimated in the Consumer Price Index at 5.9 percent," said Elias Kubeka, Numsa's national motor sector co-ordinator.

"This index does not however reflect the impact that inflation has on the poor, who spend the bulk of their income on food, transport and energy, all of which have seen inflation levels substantially higher than this figure."

Wages in the sector ranged from about R8500 a month for basic workers to R18,000 a month for qualified technicians, Kubeka said.

About 31,000 Numsa-aligned workers downed tools on Monday after pay talks deadlocked last month.

"Workers in the industry demand a 14 percent across-the-board wage increase and 100 percent payment if the employer instituted a short-term or temporary lay-off," said National Union of Metalworkers of SA chief negotiator Alex Mashilo earlier.

Mashilo said the short-term or temporary lay-off applied when logistical problems in the supply of components occurred and workers were given notice to go home.

During this time they did not receive any salary until the components reached the plant and they were called back to work, he said.

"Workers are tired of being sent home when the logistical system breaks down and not receiving salaries. These workers have no other employer and so they must be paid while companies have put them on short-term or temporary lay-off," said Mashilo.

"It is not their fault that the supply of parts is not reaching the plants as they should."

The workers were also demanding a R750 housing subsidy and R125 transport allowance per week.

Marathon negotiations to avert the strike started in May and continued to July. However, they failed to bring the two sides to an agreement. Since July, further talks were held, until last Monday, but these also failed to break the stalemate.

"We still remain open to the resolution of the issues that the workers have put forward to the employer. There is room for the employer to approach us regardless of the strike if we are contacted at any instance, but until then the strike will go ahead."

He said workers would welcome any innovation the employer brought forward to resolve the strike.

Automotive Manufacturers Employers' Organisation chairman Thapelo Molapo said the employer and the union had been able to narrow down their differences from when the negotiations started in May.

"Unfortunately we have exhausted the formal negotiations process but [this] does not mean negotiations do not have to continue until a solution is found," Molapo said.

The solution was not going to come out of a strike but through negotiations, he said.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said it fully supported Numsa's demands.

"The time to deliver to the working class is now. It is now or never. The working poor cannot wait any longer," NUM general secretary Frans Baleni said.

Automotive companies affected by the strike were BMW, Nissan, Mercedes, Volkswagen, General Motors, Toyota, UD Trucks, and MAN Truck and Bus.