Workers cannot bear the brunt of the global economic crisis, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim said in Randburg on Monday.
"Bosses must appreciate we know the economy is in crisis," he told striking Numsa members. "As workers, we will not pay for this crisis."
Petrol attendants and car repair workers affiliated to the union began a nationwide strike on Monday.
Jim encouraged non-Numsa affiliates to join the strike.
"If you are in this sector, you are protected to join this strike, if you are a Numsa member or not," he said.
Striking workers chanted "voetsek 5.6%" to show their dissatisfaction with a wage offer by employers.
"If you go to work when we are not at work, it means you are undisciplined," Jim said. "Run employers, run. Run amagundane [rats], run," he said.
Jim said the strike would continue indefinitely, until the union's demands, for among others, a double-digit percent increase, were met.
Return to negotiating table
Earlier, Numsa spokesperson Castro Ngobese said the union was holding marches around the country to urge employers in the sector to return to the negotiating table.
Thousands of workers, including petrol attendants, workers at components retailers, panelbeaters, car and spare parts dealers, fitment workshops, and dealerships were expected to down tools earlier on Monday.
The union has demanded, among other things, a R30 an hour across the board increase by 2016 on actual rates of pay in all sectors and divisions for workers earning above R6 000 a month.
Deputy general secretary Karl Cloete said last week that the industry had around 300 000 workers, of whom around 70 000 were Numsa members.
Negotiations with employers, which began at the end of May, deadlocked in July.
The Fuel Retailers' Association and the Retail Motor Industry were given 48-hours notice of the strike.
Ngobese said workers' demands should be understood within the context of rising living and transport costs.
The march began around 11.30am. It had been scheduled to start at 10am, but was delayed while members from other regions made their way to Randburg from areas as far afield as Rustenburg, in North West.
The strikers wore red T-shirts emblazoned with their demands, including a skills-based grading system and a 40-hour working week.
Before the march moved off, they sang and danced to music blaring from a sound system.
The crowd waved placards bearing slogans such as "R6 000 minimum wages in the industry" and "Move cashiers to grade five".
Other demands included safe working environments for pregnant staff and a total ban on labour brokers. – Sapa