News / Economy

    S. African Engineering Strike Latest Blow to Sickly Economy

    Members of the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa, NUMSA, hold banners as they protest with others during national strike action in Cape Town, South Africa,  July 1, 2014.
    Members of the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa, NUMSA, hold banners as they protest with others during national strike action in Cape Town, South Africa, July 1, 2014.
    Reuters

    More than 220,000 South African engineering and metal workers launched a strike over wages on Tuesday, hot on the heels of a crippling platinum dispute and dealing a further blow to an already weak economy.

    Members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), the country's largest union, and other smaller unions marched in cities including the commercial capital Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, NUMSA spokesman Castro Ngobese said.

    "There are no talks at the moment and none are scheduled," he said. Workers are demanding a 12 percent wage hike, double the inflation rate, while employers are offering 8 percent. Local media reports earlier said NUMSA had revised its demand down to 10 percent and employers had raised their offer to 8.5 percent but Ngobese said this was not true. South Africa is still reeling from a five-month strike in the platinum mines that ended with a wage settlement last week, but not before dragging the economy into contraction in the first three months of the year.

    Steel and metals manufacturing directly accounts for a fifth of the factory sector, and the impact on the economy of the NUMSA action will be heavier than that of the platinum strike, Barclays Africa said in a note.

    The latest strike will likely hit companies such as construction and engineering firms Murray & Roberts and Aveng Ltd , both involved in building two crucial power stations for state-owned utility Eskom.

    Murray & Roberts, which is helping build steam generators for both power stations, said no work was taking place at parts of the Kusile plant and only minimal work was being done at parts of the Medupi station.

    "Approximately 1,400 scheduled employees are not at work at Kusile. We have decided to not send in any other employees to the site until we have further clarity," said Ed Jardim, a spokesman for Murray & Roberts.

    Eskom expects to get the first unit of Medupi operating early next year but the strike could delay that.

    Auto parts makers such as Dorbyl will also be hit, raising fears that a prolonged stoppage could affect production in the important automotive sector. As many as 20 companies supplying Toyota Motor Corp, Ford Motor, and General Motors are affected, said Ken Manners, vice president of the South African national automobile components industry body NAACAM.

    "We have taken contingency plans, looking at stocking up on parts and there has been greater inter-company cooperation to try and create a buffer from the strike. The impact will really be felt if the strike is prolonged, more than a week or two," Manners told Reuters.

    A four-week strike in 2013 by more than 30,000 NUMSA members at major auto makers cost the industry around $2 billion.

    Eskokm targetted

    NUMSA will also picket Eskom headquarters on Wednesday to press for wage increases. Eskom supplies almost all the electricity for Africa's most developed economy and is deemed an essential service, making strikes illegal.

    But NUMSA General Secretary Irvin Jim hinted at the weekend that workers would defy the ban, saying the union might have "no option but to allow our members to liberate themselves".

    Other companies that could be affected include Africa's biggest packaging firm Nampak, electrical cables maker Reunert and unlisted steel maker Scaw Metals.

    Scaw Metals, one of the biggest steel makers in South Africa, said no production was taking place at its plants because attendance was "very low".

    "We are talking about probably 80 percent of employees not reporting for work," said Bheka Khumalo, head of Human Resources. Khumalo said the strike could result in revenue losses of about 33 million rand ($3.1 million) a week and 20,000 tonnes worth of output losses.

    The rand was little changed while the share prices of companies affected had also moved little in afternoon trade. NUMSA, once a political ally of the ruling African National Congress, fell out with President Jacob Zuma's government over policy last year.

    You May Like

    Saudi Arabia’s New Female Politicians in the Other Room 

    Many in Saudi Arabia say elected representatives should share unsegregated spaces; according to a recent survey, more than half the Saudi population, both men and women, prefer to work in a segregated place

    Russia Not ‘Apologetic’ for Syria Airstrikes

    With Moscow criticized for targeting armed opponents of President Assad, Russia’s UN envoy says his country ‘acting in a very transparent manner’

    Pakistan Warns of Islamic State's Growing Reach

    Aftab Sultan, General Director General of Intelligence Bureau (IB), briefed Senate Committee in closed hearing, saying that IS-linked groups have been expanding in Pakistan

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8883
    JPY
    USD
    114.96
    GBP
    USD
    0.6869
    CAD
    USD
    1.3858
    INR
    USD
    67.855

    Rates may not be current.