Johannesburg - Transnet said on Tuesday that about 65 percent of its employees have returned to work.
"We are pleased at the turnout and we would like to thank our colleagues for placing the interests of the country ahead of short-term gains," acting Transnet CEO Chris Wells said in a statement.
A strike by members of the United Transport and Allied Trade Union (Utatu) ended last week with the union accepting an 11 percent wage increase. The SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Satawu) has vowed to continue striking until Transnet raised its offer to 15 percent.
Wells said in addition to Utatu workers, some Satawu members had also returned to work. In some areas he claimed nearly all workers had returned to their posts.
"For those who have returned to work, I wish to assure them that the company will do all it can to ensure their safety and security.
The company has also taken all steps to ensure the safety of assets during the continued strike by Satawu members," Wells said.
Transnet has unilaterally implemented the 11 percent increase despite Satawu's refusal to accept it.
Transnet spokesperson Mboniso Sigonyela told Sapa the 11 percent would be implemented for all workers, excluding management.
"It will be implemented with effect from April 1. No talks have been scheduled with Satawu. Our offer is 11 percent and it's still on the table... Satawu can come in and accept."
Sigonyela said Transnet management's wage increases would be determined later in the year.
One of the unions' gripes with Transnet was that its management last year got 14 percent increases while workers got seven percent, but Sigonyela denied this, saying management got five percent last
Satawu policy research officer Jane Barrett said a settlement offer was tabled to Transnet on Sunday.
"The ball is in Transnet's court. Our view is that they are holding the country to ransom; they haven't shifted in two-and-a-half weeks.
"Transnet has got to balance up the impact on the economy and their refusal to shift off their 11 percent."
But asked what the impact was on workers' pockets, who were not receiving any pay while on strike, Barrett replied: "We don't instruct our members... they elected to go on strike. They have made the choice."
Economists warned last week that any strike going on for longer than a week negatively affected workers.
The "no work, no pay" rule applied, which meant strikers would receive less than half their normal pay at the end of May.
Cost of the strike
The Transnet strike had already cost the agricultural sector more than R1bn, Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said on Monday.
Business Unity SA (Busa) has warned the strike may have cost the economy about R7bn and will cause retrenchments throughout the economy.
"In consultation with its members and some experts, Busa estimates that the cost to the economy of every fortnight of the current Transnet strike could, on certain assumptions, be about R7bn," the organisation said in a statement.
Wells said operations were returning to normality and that a plan to deal with a backlog was being implemented.
"Whilst it will not be possible to return to normality immediately, we are striving to do so as swiftly as possible and I appeal to our customers for patience and their continuing co-operation as we do so," Wells said.
Supplies of jet fuel and petrol would not be interrupted.
Transnet said striking workers had caused R30m in damages to its equipment. Wells said 32 locomotives had been damaged during the strike.
Transnet was offering a R100 000 reward for information leading to the prosecution of people responsible for the damage.
Satawu issued secondary strike notices to several port-related companies on Monday. Should the Transnet strike not be resolved by June 1, sympathy strikes would be legal in these companies, Satawu general secretary Zenzo Mahlangu said.