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August, 26 2001
PUEBLA - The end of the first week of a strike by 12,500 employees at the Volkswagen
plant in Puebla, Mexico, was marked by marches and the lack of any agreement
between the union and management.
Union leader Jose Luis Rodriguez on Saturday accused the Labor Ministry's mediator, Emilio Gomez, of not really wanting to reach an agreement.
Meanwhile, Volkswagen employees and their families demonstrated on the streets of the central Mexican city where the plant is located, demanding that Labor Minister Carlos Abascal personally intervene in the dispute.
According to Rodriguez, Gomez proposed that Volkswagen offer the workers a 10-percent pay hike plus a 6-percent increase in benefits, which is still below the 19-percent increase demanded by employees.
"We have to wonder why he is getting us involved in proposals and then not supporting them. We feel tricked and confused because the authorities are supposed to be committed to a speedy solution to the dispute," Rodriguez noted.
The union leader insisted that the objective of the company, which has offered a 7-percent pay hike, is to wear down the employees so they will accept its proposals.
Rodriguez also accused the Mexican government of seeking to implement a nationwide policy of keeping salaries down and using the union representing Volkswagen's workers as a test case ahead of contentious minimum-wage revision talks at the end of the year. The government-mandated hike on the minimum wage in many ways sets the bar for salary raises throughout the economy.
He warned that if no progress is made in the negotiations on Sunday, Volkswagen workers will organize nationwide marches for Monday.
Volkswagen spokespersons say that the strike at the plant in Puebla, the company's only manufacturing facility in North America, is costing the automaker more than 25 million dollars a day.
Talks between union and Volkswagen company representatives continued on Thursday,
with both parties remaining tight-lipped before media on the current state of
negotiations, reported government news agency Notimex.
On the sixth day of the strike, the Independent Union of Volkswagen Auto Workers (SITIAVW) presented a yet unrevealed new offer to executives, with both parties expressing their desire to end the conflict quickly.
Volkswagen has said the strike is costing the company 30 million dollars a day. In addition, the work stoppage is affecting tens of thousands of employees from VW suppliers and other businesses in the Puebla area who indirectly depend upon the plant's presence.
SITIAVW leader Jose Luis Rodriguez told reporters Volkswagen has financial resources to cover the workers demands for a 19 percent raise.
The VW plant has reduced its production goals to 420,000 cars on reduced sales projections due to the U.S. economic slowdown. Last year, the Puebla plant produced a record 425,703 vehicles, according to the Mexican Automotive Industry Association.
In Puebla, the Secretary of Economic Development for the state, Antonio Zarain, said the strike could affect efforts to draw more foreign direct investment into the region, reported Notimex.
Currently, the state of Puebla is on track to attract record investments, having already initiated 455.7 million dollars worth of projects directly linked to the VW plant.
SITIAVW said that if the strike was not resolved by Saturday they would stage another march, and, if settlement was further prolonged, that they would carry their protests to the national level with the help of the National Union of Workers
MEXICO CITY, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Union leaders at the Mexican unit of Volkswagen
AG said they lowered their wage demands on Thursday, but talks aimed at settling
a five-day-old strike at the world's only New Beetle factory concluded again
without an agreement.
Miguel Angel Galan, a spokesman for the Volkswagen Mexico union, told Reuters that talks between management and workers ended around 10:30 p.m. (0330 GMT Friday) without an agreement and the two sides would reconvene on Friday at 5 p.m. (2200 GMT).
Earlier on Thursday Francisco Hernandez Juarez, an advisor to the union at VW's Mexico plant, said the union made a counterproposal to an offer by the automaker earlier this week.
"The proposals have gotten closer," said Hernandez.
Both union officials declined to give figures contained in their proposal and VW officials also refused to provide more details on the negotiations.
While the union and management appeared to be closing in on a final figure, there were still no concrete signs that the strike by Volkswagen's 12,500 union members is near a resolution.
The workers walked out of the plant in the central Mexico city of Puebla on Saturday, demanding a pay hike of 30 percent.
Workers' demands have since dropped to an increase of 19 percent, though union officials have said they will not consider an offer lower than 10 percent.
The plant - where the strike is reportedly costing some $30 million a day in lost production - is the only facility in the world to manufacture the New Beetle, which is sold in 80 countries.
It also produces the classic Beetle, now sold only in Mexico, and the Jetta (Bora) and Golf Cabrio models. Last year the Puebla plant had record output of 425,703 vehicles, about 80 percent of which were exported.
Daimler Chrysler South Africa (DCSA) last night intensified its campaign to
resume production by appealing to all its employees to return to work today.
DCSA spokesperson Annelise van Der Laan yesterday (subs: thurs) said the company launched an appeal through radio stations that all its employees should return to work today (Fri).
Van Der Laan said about 70 percent of staff were at the East London plant yesterday (subs: thurs) and had a meeting with union representatives where it was decided that the three week-long strike be suspended with effect from Monday.
However, she said the management saw no reason for the employees not to return to work tomorrow so that production could start.
She said no action would be taken against those who would not report for work because the strike was legal.
Meanwhile sources in the East London plant cited cracks within the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) as the reason behind their acceptance of the 8.5 percent wage increase as put forward by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
A union member told ECN that about 30 percent of Numsa affiliates at the Delta manufacturing plant caused confusion among the ranks by suspending their strike and returning to work last week.
He said the union had accepted the CCMA's resolution of an 8.5% wage increase backdated from July with an additional half a percent to be added in January.
However, he said workers were planning to appeal for an immediate increase of nine percent. (Sam Mkokeli Bisho ) (East Cape News (Grahamstown), August 23, 2001)
Naamsa And Numsa Look Set to End Car Strike
Union will decide this weekend whether to strike in the tyre sector THE three-week-old strike in the car-making industry could be resolved soon if employers and the union agree to accept and implement an 8,5% wage increase recommended by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.
According to the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa), employers have offered a wage settlement of 8,5% followed by a further increase of 0,5% on January 1 next year.
"This means a total increase of 9% during the first year of the agreement," Naamsa said.
The National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) is demanding a 10% increase but says it will accept the 8,5% on condition the employer also agrees to a twoyear wage agreement.
"The employer also has to come clear on the no-furtherclaims clause," said Numsa spokesman Dumisa Ntuli. The clause says the union may raise issues at plant level but it cannot strike over those issues.
Naamsa representative Nico Vermeulen said yesterday: "Management has also agreed to form a joint industry task group with the union to discuss all outstanding issues."
This task group will be formed immediately after a new agreement is signed and will aim to complete its work within six months.
Naamsa said car manufacturer BMW's Rosslyn Plant in Pretoria was open and production of cars had recommenced on a limited basis.
"Some workers have returned to work, as many cannot continue to afford the personal losses that the strike is causing," Vermeulen said yesterday .
Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana expressed concern yesterday at the "lack of resolution of the strike".
He appealed to the parties to "intensify their efforts to resolve this dispute in the interest of the car-manufacturing sector as well as the public interest".
Numsa is also still deciding on whether to strike in the tyre and rubber industry.
The union's national executive committee will meet at the weekend to make a final decision, said Ntuli.
"We have taken every measure to try to prevent a strike, but the employer has pushed us into a corner," he said.
Numsa would probably issue a notice of strike action to the employer by Monday should the national executive committee deem it necessary to strike.
Meanwhile, the strike at Northam Platinum mine in Mpumalanga continued yesterday after the National Union of Mineworkers and management failed to resolve the impasse.
The strike by 5400 miners is said to have cost the company about R18m in production losses so far.
The public service unions are also set to launch strike action should government as the employer not meet their demands for a wage increase.
The unions declared a deadlock last week after government offered a 5,5% increase. The union is demanding a 9% increase, as opposed to its initial demand of 15%.
The National Executive Committee of the National Union of Metalworkers of South
Africa (NUMSA) would decide over the weekend whether to embark on a wage strike
in the tyre manufacturing industry. This follows the failure by the employers'
organisation in the sector to meet the union's demand of 10 percent wage increase.
The Tyre Manufacturing Employers Organisation is only offering a seven percent hike that the union labelled "pathetic". Said the union: "In the current circumstances the strike action in unavoidable given the fact that employers continue with their unacceptable attitude.
We have taken precautionary measures to avoid industrial action it unfortunate and regrettable that the employers' body continuously undermined paying decent wages in the industry."
The union said it had not received necessary cooperation to find a solution from the employers' side. It said it is shameful that the employers are protecting the corporate interest by ignoring the interest of the workers who work hard to make the industry competitive.
"We are heading towards a collision with the employer body who have not been sensitive to the demands of the union. We would like to emphasize that corporate interest and workers interests are inseparable," said NUMSA. It further slammed the employers for their "naïve and arrogant" attitude in dealing with the matter.
"The intransigent manner in which the employer body conducted themselves cannot be weighed in contemporary industrial relations as bargaining in a fair manner. The union has been pushed to a situation where workers are losing patience and tolerance as a result of the unfortunate conduct of the employers," the union said. It also dismissed statements that the industry is not making profit.
Meanwhile, NUMSA has welcomed an 8 percent wage increase by the Retail Motor Industry Organisation preventing the huge strike action by 50 000 petrol service workers in the sector. The increase, which would be effected from September 1, is for both minimum and actual rates of pay.
"We are more delighted that employers in the petrol stations are moving away from a myopic approach and want to bridge a gab that has been widened in last few years. As the union we welcome the initiative to address real transformative issues in the industry. There are many gabs in the industry which require collective culture," the union said.
NUMSA said that the wage increase would enable the union leadership to take the industry forward. However, the union said wages of petrol attendants are a national disgrace in the industry. The union said there is a need for an urgent general engagement to address what it called "an apartheid legacy" wages in the motor industry.
"The motor workers are paid low wages not because of inherently low skills or no experience but because it is a discriminatory type of industry. These workers are working on Sundays and public holidays but paid a normal rate of R4.03 an hour and R3.10 respectively for petrol attendants in rural areas," said NUMSA.
JOHANNESBURG, Aug 23 (Reuters) - South Africa's government on Thursday urged
striking auto workers and employers to resolve a three-week industrial action
and said it undermined job creation and economic growth.
Responding for the first time since the strike started on August 6, Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana said in a statement the work stoppage was jeopardising future vehicle exports and investor confidence.
"I would therefore appeal to the parties to intensify their efforts to resolve this dispute in the interest of the car manufacturing sector and also the public interest," he said.
More than 21,000 workers affiliated to the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) are on strike demanding a 10 percent annual wage increase and a two-year wage agreement. The workers were initially demanding 12 percent.
Employers are offering 7.5 percent and a three-year agreement. The Commission for Conciliation Arbitration and Mediation (CCMA) has recommended that the parties accept an 8.5 - percent increase, backdated to July and an additional 0.5 percent from next year.
The strike has affected production at the South African operations of BMW , Delta Ford , DaimlerChrysler , Nissan and Toyota . There have been no major disruptions at Volkswagen .
The industrial action in one of the biggest export sectors has cost the country in excess of 350 million rand ($41.8 million) in foreign currency and the companies more than 2.0 billion rand in lost turnover.
Workers have lost about 50 million rand in wages.
Auto exports have expanded at an annual average rate of 38 percent since 1992, according to the government's statistics.
NUMSA said on Wednesday it had been mandated by its members to resume negotiations for the 10-percent increase and fight for their right to strike at plant level. It is expected to make an announcement on Friday.
Earlier, DaimlerChrysler urged workers to return to work to save the company's export contract. DaimlerChrysler last week warned that the production of C-Class Mercedes Benz models could be shifted back to Germany if the strike was prolonged.
A DaimlerChrsyler spokeswoman said NUMSA officials had told about 2,000 workers the strike could end Monday.
But NUMSA spokesman Dumisa Ntuli said no decision had been taken to end the strike. "Our leadership is still locked-up in meetings with employers. There are still some issues to be resolved," he told Reuters.
Mercedes manufacturer DaimlerChrysler employs about 3,800 workers at its East London plant. The plant, built at a cost of more than 1.0 billion rand, produces between 40,000 and 45,000 vehicles a year for the domestic and export market. (Reuters, August 24, 2001)
Auto strikers to decide on offer Saturday
JOHANNESBURG, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Striking South African auto workers said on Friday they would decide on Saturday whether to accept an improved wage offer, raising employers' hopes that the crippling strike could end next week.
Dumisa Ntuli, spokesman for the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) which represents the auto workers, said a press conference would be held at 0800 GMT.
Ntuli declined to comment on speculation that NUMSA would call off the action that has crippled production at the South African operations of BMW, Delta (GM), Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Nissan and Toyota.
There have been no major disruptions at Volkswagen.
"NUMSA and employers will continue talks this afternoon under the auspices of the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA)," Ntuli said. The union was holding a meeting on the sidelines to assess the impact of the strike.
The three-week strike in one of the country's biggest export sectors and foreign exchange earners is estimated to have cost the country more than 300 million rand ($35.88 million) in foreign currency earnings.
It has also been partly blamed for the savaging of the rand to record lows against major currencies this week.
There is growing optimism among employers that assembly plants will reopen on Monday. DaimlerChrysler said it had suspended a radio campaign urging workers to return to work as it was now clear the strike could be called off on Saturday.
"DaimlerChrysler workers attended a general meeting at the East London plant on Wednesday and Numsa officials told the workers the strike would be suspended with effect from next Monday," a company official said.
The government on Thursday entered into the fray urging workers and employers to resolve the strike which it said was harming economic growth and job creation efforts.
The CCMA recommended the parties agree to an 8.5-percent increase backdated to July and another 0.5 percent effective from next January. NUMSA was initially demanding a 12-percent increase, which was later reduced to 10 percent. Employers were offering 7.5 percent.
JOHANNESBURG, Aug 25 (Reuters) - South African auto workers and employers said
on Saturday they had not yet managed to reach a deal to end a crippling three-week
strike, but both sides hoped there would be a resolution to the dispute soon.
Nothing has changed, there is no agreement,'' said David Kirby, a spokesman for the Automobile Manufacturers Employer's Organisation.
But it is likely that by the end of the weekend there will be a deal ... there is every intention,'' he told Reuters.
The National Union of Metalwokers of South Africa (NUMSA), which represents the auto workers, had called a news conference for Saturday morning in anticipation of a conclusive announcement.
NUMSA spokesman Dumisa Ntuli told reporters there had been an agreement in principle after talks with the Commission For Concilliation Mediation and Arbitration which lasted through the night, but there were still outstanding issues.
The strike in one of the country's biggest export sectors and foreign currency exchange earners is estimated to have cost the country more than 300 million rand ($35.88 million) in foreign currency earnings.
It has hit the South African operations of BMW, Delta, Ford , DaimlerChrysler, Nissan and Toyota. Analysts say the stoppage also played a part in the rand's dive to record lows this week.
The CCMA has recommended an 8.5 percent annual wage increase backdated to July, followed by another 0.5 percent effective January. NUMSA had initially demanded a 12 percent increase -- which it later reduced to ten percent -- while employers were offering 7.5 percent.
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