THE general strike at the Goodyear South Africa tyre plant in Uitenhage entered its seventh day yesterday, but has not affected production in the region's automotive industry.
National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa)-affiliated employees at the plant, which employs more than 4000 people, embarked on a protected strike last Tuesday when they began protesting against what Numsa termed a "unilateral decision of management" to stop paying what the union refers to as a "relief allowance".
The strike began when about 100 employees downed tools, demanding that the company – which had previously paid some workers a relief allowance when they continued work while others went on lunch breaks – continue to pay the allowance.
The region's two major vehicle manufacturers – Uitenhage-based Volkswagen and Port Elizabeth-based General Motors South Africa (GMSA) – both reported yesterday that production was continuing at their plants as usual.
"We have lost no units or any production to date. We have produced, but with some difficulty. Goodyear is just one of our suppliers," Volkswagen Group South Africa general manager of communications Matt Gennrich said. GMSA communications manager Denise van Huyssteen said production had not been interrupted by the strike and that no disruption was anticipated at this stage.
Confirming the continuing strike, Goodyear South Africa's group brand communications manager Lize Hayward said yesterday: "The strike at the Uitenhage plant enters its seventh day today. Production has ceased at the plant which remains closed to ensure the safety of all workers."
Hayward said that as part of ongoing negotiations, the company was meeting with union representatives again yesterday to seek a resolution to the strike action.
Numsa's Eastern Cape regional secretary Phumzile Nodongwe said last week that the company had historically paid the relief allowance to stand-in workers (standing in for those on breaks) and that it was halting the payments due to its impact on the company's budget.
Nodongwe also said that the union had been in talks with Goodyear's management for more than two months and that workers would only return to work when an agreement had been reached.
Yesterday he said: "At present, the situation is still the same and the workers are still on strike.
"We are currently in negotiations, but we expect to make an announcement on this matter during the course of the week."