Steel being de-scaled
at an ArcelorMittal plant
Johannesburg, South Africa — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 18 July 2011 – Tens of thousands of workers ended a two-week pay strike in the South African steel and engineering sector over the weekend, while petroleum workers plan to widen their week-long walkout that left hundreds of the nation’s fuel pumps dry.

Steel workers accepted a 10% wage rise from the employers’ body, the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (SEIFSA). The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) had initially demanded a 13% increase while SEIFSA’s original offer was a 7% rise.

“Workers will therefore return to work in the next 48 hours starting on Monday,” NUMSA spokesman Castro Ngobese said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the pay strike in the domestic petroleum sector is expected to widen from today, after trade union Solidarity said its mostly skilled members at petrochemical group Sasol would join the industrial action that has left hundreds of fuel pumps dry.

“It is expected their plants will come to a standstill as almost all of the technical and strategic posts at these plants are filled by Solidarity members,” the union said in a statement.

South African unions and employers are locked in their mid-year bargaining session known as ‘strike season’, with many labour groups seeking wage increases that far exceed inflation.

Production losses in the steel sector are expected to be substantial although top makers of metal ArcelorMittal South Africa and Evraz Highveld Steel & Vanadium were not affected as they negotiate directly with their employees.