Countrywide strikes on the cards

Ports strike.jpg

South Africa faces prolonged and widespread strike action as labour unions marshal support across a wider range of the transport industry in an effort to force the road freight industry to accede to their wage and salary demands.

This follows last week’s impasse when unions and employers failed to reach agreement on wage demands. Employers have refused to go beyond an increased offer of an 8.5% increase for 2013 and a further 0.5% increase later in the year. Labour on the other hand wants 12% but has said it is prepared to drop the increase to 10%.

Following the breakdown in talks late last week SATAWU - South African Transport and Allied Workers Union – said it would call on union members within the port and rail sector to go on strike in sympathy with their fellow members in the road freight sector. SATAWU said it is prepared to close down all the ports if necessary and will also canvass members in the rail sector to bring the railways into the mix as part of a secondary strike. This could be of a one-day duration.

In advance of this SATAWU has given notice to Transnet of a one day secondary strike action to take place in a week's time. “We are considering the notice and will activate contingency measures to ensure minimal disruption should the action materialise,” said Transnet National Ports Authority in a statement yesterday.

Meanwhile several instances of unrest have been reported as strikers continue to enforce the blockade of road deliveries. A number of petrol stations across the country have begun running out of fuel and fresh produce markets and supermarket groups have reported running out of vegetables and fruit. Deliveries of other commodities are also affected. In Gauteng the oil company Shell declared force majeure on deliveries in Johannesburg and Pretoria and surrounding districts, as deliveries of fuel became impossible.

A spokesman for Shell said there was no shortage of fuel in South Africa – it was simply a case of being unable to make deliveries to the retailers.

The South African Government, perhaps with an eye of forthcoming ANC elections including the choice of the countries next president, has remained very quiet on the matter, apart from some general condemnation of the accompanying violence. This is despite the warnings given by leading economists on the affect that the ongoing strike is having on the South African economy.

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Issue 2020