Rail and port workers to join transport strike – Satawu

Union to apply to CCMA today

Rail and harbour workers are set to join ongoing transport strike
Transport Strike

The South African Transport Workers Union (Satawu) says they will, later this week, ask for permission to widen the transport strike to include rail and harbour employees as well, several radio stations reported yesterday.

An application was to be brought before the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) today and if granted could increase the losses suffered by the transport sector which are already running into about R1.2-billion per week in turnover to the road freight industry as a whole and R270-million in wages to transport employees in particular.

The estimates are given in a statement issued by the Road Freight Employers Association (RFEA) after it appeared before the Labour Court on Friday in an attempt to address the violence that has tainted the strike.

“In essence, the order made it tougher on the unions to continue with irregular strike action. The intention of the court action from the onset has been to focus on the violent action emanating from the strike. The RFEA recognises the right to strike – as long as such action takes place in an orderly fashion,” a statement released by the RFEA said.

The statement said that on Wednesday last week, the unions and RFEA, together with the Department of Labour and the CCMA, jointly crafted an agreement that all parties indicated they would be willing to sign.

“On Thursday (4 October), Satawu reneged on said agreement, despite the fact that the agreement addressed their need of a double digit figure in the first year, namely 10%, with 8% on the second year, and 9% on a third additional year. In our opinion, Satawu’s conduct is a breach of trust and threatens the institution of collective bargaining,” the RFEA statement said.

 The RFEA said it was aware of the impact the strike was having on its members, industry and South Africa from both a violence and economic perspective.

“Since 2009 to date, this industry has implemented a 30% increase in wages against a CPI [Consumer Price Index] of 16%. Estimates indicate that employees in this industry are losing in the region of R270-million in wages per week during the strike, with around R1.2-billion in turnover being lost on the part of industry per week. Should this violent strike continue, it will undoubtedly result in dramatic job losses,“ the statement said.

The wage increase percentages canvassed last Wednesday in an attempt to break the strike were already figures “that threaten the future viability of the industry, which will be further exacerbated by granting the current union wage demands".

“And apart from the reality of envisaged job losses, capitulating to the unions’ current demands will have a severe impact on commodity prices and inflation,“ the employers warned.

“We therefore urge members, industry and business to remain unified. We understand the current extremely adverse circumstances, but are of the strong opinion that these effects will be amplified in the medium and longer term if we succumb to an unaffordable short term solution,” the RFEA statement said.

The RFEA also said it had not received any official notice of any secondary strike action in terms of the Labour Relations Act requirements and that such action would therefore be illegal and unprotected.

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