OperationsPorts and Logistics

Transnet workers down tools

Workers at South Africa’s logistics group Transnet have launched an industrial strike over a wage dispute that could paralyse services and disrupt exports.

Transnet, which has already been operating below capacity, failed to come to a wage agreement with the United National Transport Union (Untu) and the South African Transport Allied Workers Union (Satawu), which are demanding an increase of 12% and 13.5%, respectively. The latest offer tabled by Transnet was for a 3% to 4% wage increase.

Earlier this week, the United National Transport Union (UNTU) announced its intentions to embark on a strike on October 6 should its meeting with Transnet not go as planned, while the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) members are set to down tools on October 10.

The state-owned group accused the UNTU of embarking on a wildcat strike, saying “any strike action taking place presently is illegal and unprotected, as UNTU has not followed the prescripts as set down in the Labour Relations Act prior to embarking on strike.” 

Transnet urged its workers to consider the long-term consequences of the strike “as this will have a profound impact on economic activity across all sectors”.

South African thermal coal producer Thungela Resources on Thursday said an extended strike would impact its production and exports and disrupt the hauling of coal from its operations to the Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) as it relied on Transnet for services such as the berthing and unberthing of vessels.

The company added that while a short strike would not significantly impact its operations, industrial action going beyond a week would impact both production and exports.

“In the event of a protracted strike extending to two weeks, we would be forced to further curtail production, with the potential resultant impact being a reduction of up to 300,000 tonnes of export saleable production,” Thungela said.

Local media reports said teargas and stun grenades were fired by police in an attempt to disperse hundreds of employees who blockaded the road near the Richards Bay port.

In the meantime, Transnet has implemented additional safety measures to protect non-striking employees and its facilities in the event of mass industrial action planned by unions over the next few days.

“At this stage, Transnet is not in a position to predict the turnout of the strike or its potential impact on operations, but remains committed to discussing the revised offer that was made to UNTU and Satawu,” it said in a statement.

Adis Ajdin

Adis is an experienced news reporter with a background in finance, media and education. He has written across the spectrum of offshore energy and ocean industries for many years and is a member of International Federation of Journalists. Previously he had written for Navingo media group titles including Offshore Energy, Subsea World News and Marine Energy.
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