Austral Marine says the strike is having a massive negative impact on business

A strike in South Africa’s plastics sector threatens to negatively impact local boatbuilding yards, with one prominent builder already affected in Durban.

However, the strike by members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) is currently limited to KwaZulu-Natal province on the east coast, with the country’s boatbuilding hub in Cape Town still unaffected.

Durban-based Austral Marine told IBI the strike is having “a massive negative impact” on business at a crucial time of the year. “Conservatively we have lost about 20 units so far,” said company director Jason Price. “As far as I can gather, speaking to friends in the industry, Austral has been affected more than any other boatbuilder in KZN. Some have not been affected at all,” Price said.

He said industry stakeholders were waiting for NUMSA to respond to the industry’s latest offer. The union claims certain companies affiliated with various employer bodies are “driving an agenda to undermine the wages and benefits which generations of workers have fought hard for.”

One of the industry bodies obtained an interdict against striking workers following incidents of violence and intimidation. The union denies any criminal acts and conversely claims some of its members have come under attack from a private security firm contracted by one of the employers.

“The strike will continue and will intensify,” said Numsa regional secretary Mbuso Ngubane said in a statement issued earlier this month. “As the region of KZN we support the call made by the national leadership of NUMSA for members to consider a sympathy strike to strengthen the Plastic strike,” Ngubane said.

Thus far, the country’s biggest builders, most of them Cape Town-based, have been unaffected. Robertson and Caine (Cape Town) and Royal Cape Catamarans (Durban) last week confirmed there had been no impact.

Price said some of his workers were too scared to come to work: “This is going to put the company under huge financial pressure going into 2019 and should this not be resolved soon the affects could be felt for many months to come.”