People walk near Toyota's Durban factory, which has been forced to shut down for four days due to an illegal pay strike by employees. REUTERS/Rogan Ward
Toyota Motor Corp said it had been forced to shut its Durban
vehicle plant for four days because of an illegal pay strike,
indicating that South Africa's manufacturing sector may not
be spared the wildcat stoppages sweeping its mines.
The Japanese car giant said it had settled the dispute on
Thursday and expected a return to work on Friday, but
declined to say what pay rise had been agreed. Production of
nearly 2,500 vehicles was lost from the plant, half of whose
output goes to export.
Elsewhere, Kumba Iron Ore, one of the world's top 10
producers, said it had suspended production at its huge
Sishen mine after striking employees blocked access to the
After two months of labour unrest, as many as 75,000 miners,
or 15 percent of the sector's workforce, are out on strike,
burdening already sluggish growth only three months before an
internal leadership election in the ruling African National
President Jacob Zuma is favourite to win re-election, teeing
him up for a second five-year term as South African president
in 2014, but labour unrest strengthens the hand of those who
say he is unfit to run a sophisticated emerging economy.
A truckers' stoppage is also squeezing fuel suppliers, who
are having to use police convoys to prevent drivers being
attacked by gangs trying to enforce a blockade that is
putting some petrol stations at risk of running dry.
The Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (COSATU), closely
allied with the ANC but losing influence to more radical
independent unions, said it was in talks with the mining
industry to try to stem the wave of unsanctioned strikes.
"This, we hope, will save collective bargaining, save the
industrial relations in the country while at the same time
bringing workers and their demands on board," COSATU General
Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said.
Violence is also intensifying in the platinum mines, the
heart of the labour rebellion since police shot dead 34
strikers at Lonmin's Marikana mine on Aug. 16, the bloodiest
security incident since the end of apartheid in 1994.
PLATINUM VIOLENCE SPREADING
Overnight, suspected wildcat strikers burnt down two
conveyors and a training centre at a mine owned by Anglo
American Platinum (Amplats) near Rustenburg, 120 km (75
miles) northwest of Johannesburg, police said.
Domestic media also reported that strikers were marching at
Amplats's Amandelbult operations, around 100 km north of
Rustenburg, although it was not clear how production was
affected and the company declined immediate comment.
The mines in that section of the "platinum belt" have so far
avoided the unrest that has centred around Rustenburg, where
a six-week illegal stoppage at Marikana secured a hefty wage
rise of up to 22 percent.
Zuma is under fire for failing to contain the rolling
protests, which intensified after the "Marikana massacre".
Furthermore, the killings revived painful memories of
apartheid-era killings by the security forces and fuelled
debate about the glaring wealth inequalities that remain,
nearly two decades after the end of white-minority rule.
"You are going to see quite a lot more of these wildcat
strikes," said Chris Hart, chief strategist at asset managers
"Despite there being a whole lot of issues which are separate
and distinct from Marikana, there is a sense that if you go
on the rampage outside the collective bargaining system you
get more benefits."
Fallout from the unrest in the mines, which account for 6
percent of GDP, has put pressure on the rand, which has
fallen to near three-year lows against the dollar.
It has also fuelled concern about growth, forecast by the
government at 2.7 percent.
Manufacturing makes up 15 percent of South Africa's output,
and widespread factory walkouts could have dramatic
implications for the economy, especially with exports already
suffering from economic woes in Europe, their main
Major bullion producers AngloGold Ashanti and Gold Fields
have also been hit by strikes.
Kumba Iron Ore, a unit of Anglo American, said it had
sufficient stockpiles and output from other mines to supply
customers for "some time". The suspended Sishen mine produced
nearly 40 million tonnes of iron ore in 2011.