South Africa’s Transnet, unions in wage deadlock as strike looms

The strike could further cripple the state-owned logistics company and affect Africa’s most advanced economy.

Hospital workers protest in South Africa
Hospital workers protest outside the Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg, on Thursday, August 19, 2010 during the second day of a nationwide civil service strike [Denis Farrell/AP Photo]

South Africa’s Transnet has announced a deadlock in wage negotiations, with two labour unions raising the prospect of a strike that could further cripple the state-owned logistics company and affect Africa’s most advanced economy.

The impasse was announced in a statement on Friday.

Transnet has been operating below capacity due to a shortage of locomotives, inadequate maintenance, vandalism and theft of its infrastructure, costing miners billions of rands in potential revenue.

In its statement, the company said a wage dispute had been formally declared with the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) and the United National Transport Union (UNTU) after negotiations which started in May.

Transnet said the unions had rejected its offer of a 1.5 percent increase in employees’ pay, excluding medical and housing allowances.

“Their position remains unchanged from the previous rounds of wage negotiations, with a demand for a 12% increase on annual guaranteed pay, as well as other demands which add up to a total increase in labour costs of 21%,” it said.

UNTU General Secretary Cobus van Vuuren told Reuters that his union, which he said was the majority at Transnet with more than 50 percent of the workforce, had rejected Transnet’s offer as it was way below the inflation rate, recorded at 7.8 percent year-on-year in July.

He said the formal declaration of a dispute allowed a 30-day “cooling-off period” for further negotiations with Transnet.

“However, if there’s no compromise reached by the parties, that would enable labour to go through a balloting process where members will mandate whether we can embark on protected industrial action or not,” van Vuuren said.

SATAWU described Transnet’s offer as an “insult” but said it remained open to further negotiations. “SATAWU wants to emphasise that going on strike is not our priority. However, at this stage, the employer is forcing us to go through that route,” it said in a statement.

Source: News Agencies