Karl Cloete. Picture: SOWETAN
Karl Cloete. Picture: SOWETAN

CAR manufacturers have agreed to a three-year wage deal with the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), kicking off at 10% in the first year, and involving what the union says are considerable improvements in benefits.

This, said the union — known for its militancy — was all "without a single bullet being fired".

On Sunday, Numsa said that the deal amounted to an effective 35% increase in wages and benefits over three years, for about 60,000 workers. The settlement is being held up by the union as a model for the ongoing talks in the motor retail sector, which is inching towards industrial action.

It is the first time since 2007 and only the fifth time in the history of the sector’s collective bargaining process that an agreement has been negotiated successfully without any disruption or work stoppage. In 2014, a three-week strike in the sector dented investor confidence and cost manufacturers an estimated R700m per day.

The 2016 deal will see workers receive a 10% increase in the first year and in the second and third years increases of 8%. This is down from the 11.5% deal agreed upon in 2014, however, Numsa deputy general secretary Karl Cloete, said that the union had "won the war", given the country’s depressed economic climate.

The deal includes a transport allowance of R1,200 a year, to rise annually, and a shift allowance of 20% in the first year, 21% in the second, 22% in 2018 and 23% in 2019. It also includes a short-time bonus and a housing solution.

The Automotive Manufacturing Employers Association (Ameo) said an industry framework had been agreed that would govern how union and management at the different manufacturing plants around the country formulated their own housing solutions.

The agreement held the promise of a longer term and stable investment-planning horizon for SA’s seven vehicle manufacturers, Ameo said on Friday.

Cloete said a strike in the motor retail sector — downstream sectors such as panel beaters, filling stations, components manufacturers, tyre, rubber, metals and engineering — was likely.

The latest offer by employers is 7%, while Numsa’s demands have dropped from 20% to 15%.

Employers are pushing for a long-term agreement but have not budged on additional benefits outside the wage increase.

Cloete said that this remained the sticking point in the negotiations, which are set to resume on Tuesday.

Numsa will hold a meeting of its national leaders on Thursday during which it will decide whether to down tools in the sector, depending on the progress in the next round of talks.