Johannesburg/Cape Town - About 15 000 striking South African
truckers agreed to return to work on Wednesday, easing pressure on Africa’s
biggest economy where two weeks of labour unrest in the transport sector have
hit supplies of fuel, cash and consumer goods.
The decision on Tuesday by three small unions puts pressure
on the biggest labour group, the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union
(Satawu), which represents about 28 000 workers, to reach a deal and suspend
its calls to widen the strike to ports and rails.
“We are willing to compromise on our demands, but only as
long as the employers do the same,” said Vincent Masoga, spokesperson for
Satawu. He was not immediately able to comment on the deal struck by the
“Three of the unions have agreed to suspend strike action,”
a spokesperson for the employers association said. It was still in talks with
all groups to hammer out a final deal.
An employers body said last week the freight industry was
losing around R1.2bn in turnover each week due to the strike.
Affected companies include logistics groups Imperial
Holding, Super Group, Grindrod, Barloworld and Bidvest. If the protests expand
to rail and ports, they would hit exports of coal and other minerals.
The news that the truckers would return to work eased
investors' concerns about widening strikes that could slow growth.
The rand, which fell to three-and-a-half year lows against
the dollar on Monday on worsening investor sentiment about labour strife,
firmed immediately after the news truckers would return to work, hitting a
session high of R8.735.
Thousands of striking truck drivers have taken to the
streets in often violent protests, demanding annual wage increases of 12% for
two years - more than double the inflation rate.
Employers have offered a total 18% pay rise over that
period. It held wage talks with Satawu on Tuesday.
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