Business

Satawu to intensify Transnet strike, labels talk of retrenchments ‘insensitive’

The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) says it will intensify its strike from Thursday (13 October) and is ready to do so for the next few months following dissatisfaction at its sit down with Transnet at the Bargaining Council on Wednesday.

Transnet, in a statement issued on Thursday morning, confirmed that it tabled a new three-year wage offer, which entails:

  • A 4.5% across the board (ATB) increase in the current year, which will be implemented from 1 October 2022
  • A 5.3% ATB increase in 2023/24
  • A 5.3% ATB increase in 2024/25
  • A 4.5% increase in medical aid allowance in 2022/23, which will be adjusted in line with the ATB increase in the subsequent two years
  • The back-pay will be paid in two tranches – three months’ back-pay on 15 November 2022, and three months’ back-pay on 16 January 2023

However, Satawu says the state-owned ports, rail and pipelines group has been ‘insulting, undermining, and disrespecting workers’ for the past five months – since the beginning of the negotiations – and was hoping Transnet would eventually table a better offer.

Read all our Transnet coverage here.

Satawu further notes that during negotiations Transnet intimated the possibility of retrenchments.

“The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union also finds it very insensitive and disturbing that during such tense and sensitive negotiations the employer had the audacity to say there [are] possibilities of retrenchments, as we wish to kindly advise the employer not to start what [it] will not finish,” it adds.

Untu also rejects offer

The United National Transport Union (Untu) says it also rejected Transnet’s offer, stating that the company simply juggled the numbers to make the offer look different except with no ex-gratia payments, no shift allowance increases or acting allowance increases. It says the offer is still far from an inflation-related increase.

“We understand that a double-digit increase is out of Transnet’s reach. We seek a CPI-related increase because we are realistic,” says Untu’s general secretary Cobus van Vuuren.

Clarifying the union’s initial 12% to 13.5% salary increase proposal to Transnet, Van Vuuren notes Untu made the high demand because the company used a positional bargaining stance by offering 1.5% instead of considering a needs-based approach.

“But we are a reasonable union and will consider a reasonable offer,” he adds.

Executive pay

Meanwhile, Satawu says it finds Transnet’s refusal to withdraw the 3% increase for its management, as one of the ways to resolve the matter, insensitive.

The union adds that it is frustrated that the company’s executives take home millions each year. “If the group CEO of the entity can take home R8.9 million a year, it means there is money at Transnet.”

Satawu claims the executives do not deserve to be paid that amount of money because “they are doing nothing except for collapsing and mismanaging the funds of the entity”. It says the company’s management has proven incompetent and that they do not have a plan to save Transnet, “except for their personal interests”.

The union notes that it wrote a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi seeking their intervention to save the entity from a lack of accountability and maladministration.

“Our members are not going to suffer as a result of their [incompetence].”

In response, in a joint statement issued on Wednesday, Gordhan, Nxesi and Didiza urged the parties to return to the negotiating table and to adopt an approach which balances the rights of workers, who are affected by rising prices against the long-term stability and growth of Transnet, and the economy.

The ministers penned the government’s concern over the negative impact on the South African economy emanating from the dispute.

“Furthermore, this enables us to appreciate the extent of the impact of the strike on industry on the one hand, and the gap that exists in the negotiations between labour and Transnet management on the other,” reads the statement.

“It is the view of government, that it will be in the interests of the country to find a speedy resolution to this impasse and for parties to continue to engage and, where appropriate, to employ the facilitation services of the CCMA,” it adds.

The statement notes that the country cannot afford further job losses in other sectors of the economy nor the interruption of imports and exports to and from South Africa.

Business concerns

Business Unity South Africa (Busa) and Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) also echoed government’s sentiments in a joint statement issued on Wednesday evening. The statement notes that there are no easy solutions on the table given Transnet’s balance sheet, higher levels of inflation, fiscal constraints and stresses that businesses are currently under.

Read: ‘The Transnet strike is going to cost the economy billions’

The two entities say they have pledged to work with government and Transnet where possible, to ensure continued limited operations of the ports where possible, and similar contingency plans, to prevent overcrowding in some ports and support Transnet’s security measures.

“Business is also concerned that if this [strike] lasts more than a few days, cargo ships will not just skip slots at South African ports but start taking South African ports out of schedules in the months ahead.

“This will add significant costs [in order to] either airfreight items or truck goods to and from other African ports, which will add to the inflation pressures South African’s are facing,” adds the statement.

“This is why we need swift, sustainable resolution.”

Read:

FirstRand chair slams ‘glacial’ pace of Ramaphosa’s infrastructure programme

Busa and BLSA further note that government’s plans for private sector participation in the logistics industry must go further and faster and will be a key focus after the strike ends to avoid a similar disruption in future.

However, Satawu says it has been vocal against the privatisation of Transnet and that it is more than willing to assist in bringing stability to the entity, but not at the expense of its members and workers.

“The employer must pay the workers on the ground, instead of giving themselves salary increments every year while doing nothing but enjoying the luxury of their offices,” adds the union.

Both Satawu and Untu say they are encouraging members to go out in numbers as the strike continues.

Transnet notes that whilst the parties have not settled on the latest offer that engagements are still ongoing.

Nondumiso Lehutso is a Moneyweb intern.


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