Transnet strike goes ahead as planned

Port/sDurban, Cape Town, Richards Bay, Port Elizabeth
Issue TypeStrike
ImpactPartial Closure / Delays

The current ongoing strike action in South Africa is impacting all TPT terminals, with container / liner business being seriously affected. There are no container cargo movements taking place at present. Liquid bulk terminals (BTT and VOPAK) are operational, however marine service delays can be expected. Tugs, pilots and berthing gangs form part of essential services, so TNPA has invoked their BCP, which means they will be operating with skeleton staff, and limited to a degree.

Striking unions and Transnet officials were on Monday meeting at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) over a wage dispute at the state rail, port and pipeline company.

The CCMA meeting comes as more than 80% of Transnet workers are on a strike. United National Transport Union (Untu) members downed tools last Thursday and those from the South African Transport Workers Union (Satawu) joined on Monday morning.

On Friday, the labour court dismissed an urgent interdict application made by Transnet, which alleges that the strike is unprotected. In a statement, Transnet accused Untu of not following the prescripts set down in the Labour Relations Act prior to embarking on the job boycott.

Untu said Transnet refused to talk about the picketing rules ahead of the strike.

Workers are demanding a wage increase of between 12% and 13.5%, and have rejected the most recent 3% wage hike offered by Transnet. The state entity sweetened its initial offer of 1.5%.

Transnet said it believed its revised offer was reasonable, fair and deserves serious consideration given the company’s operational and financial performance. Its wage bill already accounted for 66% of the company’s monthly operating costs, it said, adding that the latest offer would add R950-million to the current salary bill.

On Friday, the South African Berry Producers Association (BerriesZA) asked national ministers for their urgent and forceful intervention in the strike.

The association said in a statement that more than a third of local berry producers are not profitable, which means their survival and the livelihoods they support are under severe threat.

“The latest strike action could be the final nail in the coffin for berry farmers who fill a critical gap in the labour sector, due to their harvest season running from September to November before the early stone fruit and table grape harvest season commences,” BerriesZA said.

On Monday, Kumba Iron Ore said the strike would harm exports which are mainly to China, Europe, Japan and South Korea, according to a Reuters report.

The iron-ore mining company said in a statement: “As a result of the disruption to Transnet’s rail and port services, the estimated impact on production is approximately 50 000 tonnes per day for the first seven days and thereafter approximately 90 000 tonnes per day. Export sales will be impacted by approximately 120 000 tonnes per day.”

The Western Cape government said a prolonged strike at Transnet would severely hurt the economy at a time when there should be job creation.

“Every effort must be made to ensure that Transnet’s business continuity plans (BCP) are fully implemented to ensure that our ports and container terminals — as key arteries of our economy — continue to function,” Western Cape head of finance and economic opportunities Mireille Wenger said.

“In the end, our citizens will suffer the consequences of a disruptive strike, especially the thousands of residents employed in our rural areas who work in the agriculture sector. It is therefore important that consensus and a way forward can be reached as soon as possible.”

News source: (Mail and Guardian)