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About 220 000 National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) workers in the steel and metal sector are downing tools in a nationwide strike that starts today.

The workers are expected to march in Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth, George, Cape Town and East London, according to Numsa.

The employers have tabled a three-year wage settlement offer of between 7% and 8% for different levels of workers in the first year and CPI-linked increases for 2015 and 2016.

However, the union has rejected the offer, as they are demanding 12%.

According to economists, the strike is a major setback for the economy as it recovers from a five-month long strike in the platinum mining sector. –