Sapref: Strike will not shut refinery

2011-07-11 11:46

Johannesburg - Sapref, the largest crude oil refinery in southern Africa, has no intention of shutting down during the countrywide fuel workers' strike, it said on Monday.

"Although Ceppwawu (the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood, and Allied Workers Union) has called for a national strike, Sapref does not anticipate that they will need to shut down," said spokesperson Margaret Rowe.

"Sapref intends to continue operating for as long as it is safe to do so."

Rowe was unable to comment on possible fuel shortages, and directed further enquiries to Shell SA Refining spokesperson Dennis Matsane, and BP Southern Africa spokesperson Glenda Zvenyika. Both were not immediately available for comment.

Sapref, which is a joint venture between Shell and BP, provides for 35% of South Africa's refining capacity, and is located in Durban.

Engen Refinery spokesperson Herb Payne said he would comment shortly.

Fuel Retailers' Association (FRA) chief executive Reggie Sibiya said it feared petrol stations may run dry during the strike.

"In terms of determining when it will run dry depends on how organised the strike is," he said. "But we are not going to see it today as most stations have stock."

Sibiya urged motorists to be prepared and not panic.

"Hopefully, unions and employers (will) reach a speedy resolution."

About 70 000 fuel workers from Ceppwawu and the General Industries Workers Union of SA (Giwusa) joined the strike on Monday.

They were demanding a minimum salary of R6 000 per month and a 40-hour work week.

Ceppwawu policy coordinator John Appolis told Independent Newspapers that hundreds of companies would be affected, including Sasol [JSE:SOL], Engen, BP, Caltex, Total, Adcock Ingram Holdings [JSE:AIP] and Tiger Brands [JSE:TBS].

Giwusa had members in the pharmaceutical, glass, chemical and fast-moving consumer goods, fibre and particle board industries.

The union's president Charles Phahla told reporters on Sunday that workers would march to the Chamber of Mines in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

The strike entered its second week on Monday.

About 170 000 engineering and steel workers from the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), the Metal and Electrical Workers Union (Mewusa), the United Association of SA (Uasa), Solidarity, and the SA Equity Workers Association (Saewa) downed tools last week.

They were demanding wage increases ranging from 10% to 13%, and a ban on labour brokers.

Police said violence had erupted, resulting in one death and six people being injured.