Ford says committed to South Africa, plays down concern over strikes

Thu Jul 10, 2014 9:21am EDT
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By Tiisetso Motsoeneng

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote) has a long-term commitment to South Africa, its regional head said, playing down any concerns about strikes that an engineering federation said had prompted the U.S. carmaker to consider pulling out of the country.

The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (SEIFSA) said the local head of Ford, Jeff Nemeth, told SEIFSA's chief executive that "he was under pressure from his head office to pull the company's operation out South Africa."

Nemeth told SEIFSA of concerns within Ford over strike action, SEIFSA spokeswoman Ollie Madlala said.

Nemeth spoke to SEIFSA shortly before more than 220,000 workers led by the NUMSA metalworkers union - South Africa's biggest - launched a strike for higher pay that has hit the supply of auto parts.

Asked to comment, the president of Ford's Middle East and Africa operations, Jim Benintende, said: "We have a long-term commitment to South Africa... and we're making news next week about future products."

Ford wanted to respect the strike negotiation process "so all we have to say is that we hope all sides come to amicable agreements as soon as possible," he said.

The strike, now in its second week, has already forced General Motors (GM.N: Quote) to halt production, and Ford and other automakers could follow suit if it continues.

The NUMSA strike follows a walkout by platinum miners that lasted five months and ended two weeks ago.   Continued...

A Ford logo is seen on a car during a press preview at the 2013 New York International Auto Show in New York, March 28, 2013.   REUTERS/Mike Segar