Satawu vows to continue Transnet strike

The smaller of the two main labour unions at state-owned port and rail operator vowed to continue a strike over wages that’s curbing key exports.

The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union rejected its rival United National Transport Union’s acceptance of Transnet’s pay offer and said industrial action will go on until workers are assured they won’t lose their jobs. Untu said Monday it agreed a three-year pay deal with Transnet for increases of as much as 6%.

Read: Untu signs three-year Transnet wage deal

“The strike is going on,” Satawu spokeswoman Amanda Tshemese said by phone on Tuesday. “Our members made it clear that until we get a no retrenchment clause and what is due to them, the strike will go on.”

Satawu says it represents about a third of Transnet’s 55 827 full-time and contract staff, compared with the 24 992 workers that Untu represents.

Read all our Transnet coverage here.

The strike, which Untu began on October 6 and Satawu joined four days later, is crimping South African shipments of iron ore, coal and chrome. The Minerals Council South Africa estimates that the strike is costing mining companies about R815 million a day. Fruit producers have also expressed concern that their harvests will rot at the docks.

Satawu is willing to negotiate to end the impasse with Transnet as it’s aware of the “consequences” of the industrial action, Tshemese said.

The strike is another blow to South Africa’s economy, which contracted 0.7% in the second quarter. Economic growth faces more headwinds from state-owned power utility Eskom, which is implementing rolling electricity outages due to frequent breakdowns at its power generation plants.

Listen: Satawu’s Anele Kiet says Untu has ‘insulted’ it by signing a 6% wage agreement with Transnet and it intends on intensifying the strike (or read the transcript here)

In addition, the pay deal that Untu agreed with Transnet undermines a pledge by the government to rein in state wages. The remuneration of South African public servants accounts for almost a third of total government spending and keeping it in check is key to the National Treasury’s plans to reduce its budget deficit and bring runaway debt under control.

© 2022 Bloomberg

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