Cindy Preller and Mkhululi Ndamase
SEVERAL Eastern Cape construction projects – including the renovation of the Walmer Park shopping centre – ground to a halt yesterday on the first day of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) construction strike.
Meanwhile the motor industry strike entered its second week, with Continental Tyres SA putting its workers on short time from the weekend.
The National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) said yesterday the strike was by no means over and no offer had been accepted, despite the Automobile Manufacturers Employers' Organisation (Ameo) describing their latest offer to Numsa as "the most favourable proposal ever made in the history of collective bargaining in the automotive industry".
The strikes are expected to inflict a further blow to the already weak economy.
About 90000 NUM-affiliated workers downed tools yesterday demanding a 13% wage increase for this year and a 14% increase for next year. NUM national spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said employers were offering a 7% increase in the first year and an inflation increase the next year.
"Negotiations are a process of give and take, but there is nothing on the table to consider at the moment," he said.
Baywest Mall construction project manager John Townsend said it was hoped the strike would be resolved soon and amicably, so as not to affect the completion date of the project.
Baywest managing director Gavin Blows said he urged "the negotiating parties to deal in good faith and to seek a speedy resolution to this matter, so as to limit the negative impact on job creation and the economy of the region and country".
Walmer Park shopping centre spokeswoman Leonie Scheepers said the opening date of the centre, planned for the end of September, would go ahead depending on the length of the strike.
"At this stage it is not compromising our opening date as our contractors, due to good planning, are slightly ahead of their contract schedule. The strike is affecting us in terms of completion of the tarring of the new car park and the widening of Main Road, Walmer," Scheepers said.
Coega Development Corporation spokesman Ayanda Vilikazi was unable to say if the four investors' premises currently under construction at the Coega Industrial Development Zone – First Automobile Works, Agni Steels, Rehau Expansion and DCD Wind Towers – had been affected by the construction strike.
The Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm last night confirmed that it had been affected, but did not give details. "We respect workers' rights in South Africa and hope that the negotiations between the union and industry come to a speedy resolution," management said.
In the automotive strike, Continental Tyre SA spokeswoman Gishma Abrahams confirmed that workers had already been placed on short time at the weekend.
Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Holdings spokeswoman Lize Hayward said the Uitenhage company's operations and manufacturing were "currently unaffected".
Ford Motor Company South Africa spokeswoman Alisea Chetty yesterday said the Struandale plant in Port Elizabeth "remains at a halt" but did not want to disclose the company's daily losses.
Mercedes-Benz South Africa spokeswoman Lynette Skriker said no production had taken place yesterday and she was also unable to comment on lost production cost or volume.
While the employer went back to the union with a revised 10% wage increase offer on Thursday, Numsa yesterday said they were yet to consolidate everything after taking the new offer back to their members at the weekend.
Numsa had demanded a 14% increase, but said they would accept any double-digit increase.
Ameo spokesman Thapelo Molapo said they were still waiting for Numsa to decide if they were accepting the offer or not.