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Transnet strike poised to expand

May 17 2010 12:09 Sikonathi Mantshantsha

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Johannesburg - Labour unions behind the Transnet strike have called on other trade unions to join them in "an unprecedented solidarity action" after the breakdown of talks to resolve ongoing industrial action at the logistics utility.

"Management was adamant there would be no improvement on its offer," said United Transport and Allied Trade Union (Utatu) secretary general Chris de Vos on Monday.

“We have requested our federation, Fedusa [ the Federation of Unions of SA], to help call all our affiliate unions to come out and support us in an unprecedented mass action against Transnet."

De Vos said attempts by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration to broker a deal - during which Utatu and the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) lowered their 15% wage increase demand to 13% - have failed.

Transnet had refused to budge on its 11% increment offer by Sunday evening. "Last night we were negotiating on an unmandated 12% increase, which Transnet still refused," said De Vos.

The unions issued a joint statement on Monday, saying they would intensify the strike. Cosatu-affiliated Satawu was also set to request the federation to lend support through a solidarity mass campaign of fellow affiliates to put pressure on Transnet. 

'Step off their inflexible pedestal'

"Management effectively walked away from any negotiated settlement, after stating an unwillingness to budge on any item of money substance," read the joint statement.

It said the 13% compromise was "stonewalled" by Transnet negotiators, who were only prepared to reduce contract employment in the company by 2012 and guarantee no retrenchments for the next three months. "On every other item they remained absolutely rigid," said the unions, which represent about 85% of Transnet's workforce.

The strike entered its second week on Monday, and there seems to be no resolution in sight. Transnet, which claims strike-related sabotage has cost it R24m in infrastructure damage, said it was continuing to implement contingency plans to ensure critical flows and the transport of commodities to their destinations.

"We also have a comprehensive recovery plan to address the backlog when the strike is resolved," said acting group CEO Chris Wells.

The unions said Transnet must be "instructed" by its shareholder - government - to "step off their inflexible pedestal" and resolve the strike.

"As unions we have come to the conclusion that Transnet negotiators are acting in bad faith, and are incompetent and uncaring of the company and its workers, despite what they say in their full-page newspaper adverts. We believe they have been misleading their own board, government and the public."

  - Fin24.com 
transnet  |  utatu  |  satawu  |  transnet strike



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