CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa's NUMSA union has declared a wage dispute with the auto retail industry although a senior official said on Wednesday the move did not mean a strike by the 100,000-strong union was imminent.
"I can confirm that there is a dispute on the table," said Mphumzi Maqungo, a treasurer at the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA).
Africa's largest economy has been hit with waves of turbulent and often deadly wildcat strikes in the mining industry since last year, and a few outbreaks of industrial action in the car sector.
Analysts fear unrest could spill over into other industries, further bruising investor sentiment and knocking the volatile rand as unions press for wage increases well above inflation.
NUMSA, which represents about 100,000 workers in motor retailing, including petrol pump attendants, wants entry-level workers to receive at least 6,000 rand a month, Maqungo said.
Under South African law wage disputes are sent to mediation. If that fails, unions can call a strike.
The Retail Motor Industry Organisation was not immediately available to comment although chief executive Jakkie Olivier said in a statement on its website that NUMSA's dispute was "not totally unexpected".
Maqungo said the dispute did not affect NUMSA's separate wage negotiations with auto manufacturers including Ford and Volkswagen. Further talks are planned for next week ahead of the end of the current three-year deal on June 30.