JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – South Africa's National Union of Metalworkers (NUMSA), which yesterday announced a 3-year labor pact with auto makers here, says it would have opposed any move by DaimlerChrysler AG to shift production of its Mercedes C-Class to South Africa.
The union’s position is in solidarity with its German counterparts. A NUMSA spokesman says the union is a signatory to the International Metalworkers Federation agreement not to allow employers to pay lower wages to workers based on their location.
DC and union members at the company’s Sindelfingen, Germany, plant recently reached an agreement to end weeks of labor strife that had caused walkouts and loss of production at Mercedes-Benz’s main plant.
Both sides agreed to cost reductions at the plant valued at €500 million ($612 million), most of which will take root in 2007, when the next generation C-Class will roll off the line at the Sindelfingen plant.
Additionally, DC agreed to guarantee 6,000 jobs at the plant through 2012.
The relocation of C-Class production would mean a major investment for South Africa and create additional jobs in the Eastern Cape region.
“We welcome any investment in South Africa, but are opposed to the way in which DaimlerChrysler wishes to use the labor dispute to move production,” the NUMSA spokesman said at the time, noting DC is notorious for using relocation issues in wage disputes.
He cited 2001 labor negotiations in which the auto maker threatened to move production from South Africa to Germany.
“We cannot allow employers to force workers to compete against each other by using such threats during disputes,” the NUMSA spokesman says, adding that the union had urged DaimlerChrysler to first resolve the issue with its German workers before considering a relocation to South Africa.
Meanwhile, NUMSA, representing 21,000 workers, reportedly has agreed to a deal with domestic auto makers that calls for a 7.5% average pay raise.
The union, which was calling for a 9% pay hike, had threatened to strike after failing to reach an agreement on wage increases with the Automobile Manufactures Employers Assn. Association members include BMW SA, DaimlerChrysler SA,Motor Co. of Southern Africa, SA, SA and Volkswagen SA.