Some 50,000 workers in the state owned freight group Transnet are set to go on strike next week. A total shutdown of all South Africa’s ports, freight rail operations, rail engineering works and fuel pipelines is expected.
Workers at Transnet, represented by the ITF-affiliated South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union and the United Transport and Allied Trade Union in conjunction with the South African Railways and Harbour Workers' Union will go on strike on 10 May.
The unions, representing the workforce at six divisions of the company, went into dispute in early April after negotiations and conciliation over an annual wage increase and employment conditions failed.
The unions’ key demands focus on a number of areas including: a 15 per cent pay increase - the company has so far offered eight per cent; the immediate permanent employment of all 5000 fixed-term contract workers, particularly at Transnet Capital Projects, which constructs and maintains infrastructure and a three month maximum timeframe for the extension of a medical aid subsidy to additional service providers.
A range of issues have been fuelling the dispute, such as: the excessive salaries and incentive bonuses paid to top managers - of the total bonuses paid last year, 51 per cent went to 4,500 managers and 49 per cent was shared between 49,000 workers and the fact that the additional pressure on workers as a result of Transnet’s cutting employees from 200,000 to 50,000 has not led to fairer remuneration.
A joint union statement on the strike said: “We want to put on record that going on strike is not an easy decision to make. The absence of a decent wage offer has forced the unions into this position. The public and media must look to Transnet to resolve the impasse. We apologise in advance for any inconvenience caused.”
A parallel dispute is running in urban passenger rail; the union is going into conciliation with Metrorail today. If the dispute is not resolved concurrent strike action could be possible.