Signaling the start of a nationwide strike in the auto sector over wages, workers stopped working at South African unit of Japanese auto maker Toyota on Monday.
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) called the strike and could affect over 30,000 assembly line workers. This stoppage could further slow down Africa’s largest economy after the unrest in the mining sector has already showed its mark. South Africa’s auto industry contributes at least 6% to the country’s GDP and 12% of its total exports.
“All manufacturing and assembly production at the plant are shut down,” said Leo Kok, the spokesman for Toyota, the largest vehicle exporter in South Africa.
Toyota’s manufacturing plant is in the port of Durban and Kok said the company’s national parts centre in central Gauteng province was also affected. More than 80 percent of the company’s workforce of 8,000 was absent on Monday, Kok said.
Autoworkers want a 20% wage increase, up from an initial demand of 14% and well above the central bank’s projected average inflation rate for the year of 5.9 percent.
Other major carmakers in the country, like Ford, GM and Nissan have only offered a 6% increase during negotiations to replace a three-year wage deal that ended on June 30.