WITH most of the vehicle manufacturers in the Eastern Cape reporting no production at their plants by yesterday, both Numsa and industry bosses have expressed their hopes that negotiations tomorrow will bring an end to the strike in the fuel, retail and component sectors that has paralysed the local vehicle industry.
The shortage of components has had a devastating effect on vehicle manufacturers, who had their own three-week strike prior to the fuel, retail and component sector strike, which yesterday entered its third week.
Volkswagen Group of South Africa communications manager Matt Gennrich said the Uitenhage factory's vehicle production lines were closed yesterday and would remain closed until such time as the component strike was resolved and their suppliers were able to deliver the required parts for production.
"This means that, once again, our hourly rated employees on the production lines will not be earning any income as the no work, no pay rule applies. The ripple effect in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro will be felt for some time as the spending power of our and other employees affected by the strike is eroded.
"We can only urge all involved in the negotiations to ... resolve the strike speedily to avert further hardship for the people affected by the strike and to limit the reputational damage that our and other companies are suffering as we cannot deliver vehicles to our export and domestic customers," Gennrich said.
General Motors South Africa was unable to produce vehicles last week and continues to have no production at the Port Elizabeth plant this week. However, communications manager Denise van Huyssteen said the company was still on track to meet the initial launch demand into left-hand-drive sub-Saharan Africa export markets, planned for the fourth quarter of the year.
Ford Motor Company of South Africa communications manager Alisea Chetty said that yesterday and today were "bridging days" at Ford, which meant there was no production at the company's Port Elizabeth and Pretoria plants. "Production will resume [tomorrow] with the [usual] two shifts.
Limited production in the commercial vehicles line continued yesterday at Mercedes Benz in East London but communications manager Lynette Skriker said if the component industry strike continued, production might come to a complete standstill by next week.
National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers executive director Robert Houdet said it was unheard of in Europe and other countries in the world that vehicle manufacturers stopped production due to strike action.
"No internationally competing OEM [original equipment manufacturer] can afford to have no production. Billions of rands are being lost in the component and OEM sectors every day but the bigger damage has already been done ... investors will think twice before buying from SA because of the labour instability," Houdet said.
National Union of Metal Workers of SA general secretary Irvin Jim said if Numsa's demands were not met favourably, a secondary strike with various Cosatu-affiliates would be considered. However, he was hopeful the strike would be settled tomorrow.
National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA chief executive Nico Vermeulen said it seemed it was business as usual at most fuel stations, while the knock-on effect of the strike in the component industry would be felt for a long time in the vehicle industry. "Manufacturers will try to recover lost production but this will cost money in overtime payments."