Motor industry workers are preparing to strike at the risk of jeopardising some of South Africa’s key local exports, an industry analyst has cautioned.

Motor industry workers are preparing to strike at the risk of jeopardising some of South Africa’s key local exports, an industry analyst has cautioned.

On Thursday, Numsa’s provincial organiser for the Eastern Cape, Sam Malanjeni, told CARtoday.com the union had planned a march for the weekend of July 30 in an attempt to persuade manufacturers to resolve the deadlock. Malanjeni said the planned march would not affect production.

On Friday, however, reported that 21 000 members of the motor vehicle sector would down their tools on July 26. This strike action will jeopardise the many local manufacturers’ export contracts.

Economist and motor industry analyst Tony Twine estimated that if the strike went ahead, workers would lose about R18m in wages a week.

"The parent companies are not concerned about labour unrest in SA. They just want to see products delivered on time," Twine said on Thursday.

Twine warned that the impending strike could lead to the non-renewal of existing export contracts as parent companies’ global operations would not be held ransom by workers.

Dave Kirby of the Automobile Manufacturers Employers Organisation (Ameo), representing the manufacturers in the negotiations, said SA was in danger of being perceived internationally as an unreliable base for vehicle manufacturing.

Most major manufacturers now have local export programmes. Late last month, VWSA announced a programme to export its Golf 5 to Australia and other key Asian markets.

DaimlerChrysler SA is in a bid to renew its contract to manufacture the next generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class at its East London plant. The automotive giant has been riddled with employee unrest in the past week and 30 000 German workers protested against plans to increase working hours on Thursday.

The company is trying to cut back its costs by R3,75 billion while workers are only willing to yield to R1,35-billion cuts. After about 12 000 workers failed to show up for their shifts at Sindelfingen last Saturday, DaimlerChrysler reportedly lost production of more than 1 000 units.

On Monday, the group said that if strikes continued it may have to cut 6 000 jobs at the plant and shift production of the new C-Class – due in 2007 – to its Bremen and East London plants.