Mining strikes still plaguing South Africa

South Africa’s biggest labor union said it’s opposed to the latest wage offer from employers to end a strike in the metals and engineering industry because of a clause about future negotiations.

The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa, a group employing the most workers in the sector, offered a 10 percent increase over three years for low-level earners on July 24. Seifsa, as the organization is known, included a demand that future cost-related employment issues be negotiated at national rather than company or plant level as part of the deal, a clause known as Section 37.

“The settlement will stand or fall on section 37,” Karl Cloete, deputy general secretary of The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, said in an interview in Johannesburg today. The condition “is disruptive to current negotiations.”

The strike of about 220,000 workers began on July 1 and is costing the industry about 300 million rand ($28.5 million) a day, according to the employers. Numsa has until the end of tomorrow to accept the Seifsa deal, which is supported by the UASA and Solidarity unions. Numsa will get feedback from members from around the country later today and won’t comment on a final decision until it has a mandate, General Secretary Irvin Jim told reporters.

The walkout may lead to a slowdown in economic growth, according to Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus. Carmakers including Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Co. have stopped production at their South African units because of unavailability of some components. The strike, that affects about 12,000 companies including beverage-can maker Nampak Ltd.,

follows a five-month stoppage by platinum mineworkers that caused Africa’s second-largest economy to contract in the first quarter.

There were 336 strikes and protests in Africa’s second- biggest economy in the first half of this year, and 714 last year, according to the Institute for Security Studies.