THE automotive industry will work non-stop to catch up on lost production from the longest strike in the sector's history. While Eastern Cape vehicle manufacturers and component suppliers will use overtime to make up time on especially overseas contracts, the motor industry is hopeful that a threatening strike in the tyre industry will not materialise.
National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim said yesterday negotiations were deadlocked between the union and tyre industry representatives.
"Our senior leadership will meet with the chief executives of the tyre companies to avert a strike."
The next negotiations will take place on Friday.
Port Elizabeth's Continental Tyres SA (CTSA) workers would return to normal production next week, company spokeswoman Gishma Johnson said. "This has minimal impact on the distribution of tyres to customers as our warehouse continues to operate."
National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa) director Nico Vermeulen said he was disappointed that it had taken so long for the strike in the component sector to be called off.
"With the strike in the vehicle manufacturing industry being followed by a strike in the component industry, production of vehicles was stopped for about seven full weeks. This is the longest strike in the sector in history, that we have on record.
"We do not expect the strike in the tyre industry, however, to be as dramatic, since it is possible to import tyres as well as build up a stock in inventory."
National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers (Naacam) director Robert Houdet said the R39-billion-a-year component industry had lost millions in salaries, but actual losses in terms of production could not be determined yet.
"Renewal of overseas contracts because of the labour instability in South Africa, will have a long- term negative effect on the industry," he said.
"The component manufacturers will try to catch up with the export market by making deliveries by air freight for the next four to five weeks in order to keep the contract supply going. This is much more expensive than sea, but we have no other choice. Many component manufacturers will work double shifts to feed the assembly lines."
Volkswagen SA communications manager Matt Gennrich said the Uitenhage factory was back in full production yesterday and would try to catch up as much volume as possible, prioritising exports.
General Motors SA resumed production in Port Elizabeth last Thursday. "We are working with the tyre manufacturers to finalise contingency plans," spokeswoman Denise van Huyssteen said.
Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber chief executive Kevin Hustler said the business community was concerned at the length of the strikes, as well as the knock-on impact on all sectors of the economy.
"The loss of export numbers is especially problematic, as the motor industry lost in excess of 70000 units.
"Already, multinationals are considering and even stating that they are not willing to invest in the country in future. This is a point of extreme concern and a clarion call for strong and decisive leadership," Hustler said.