South African freight rail and port workers have rejected a revised pay offer from state-owned logistics firm Transnet and vowed to continue a week-long strike that has been throttling commodities exports.
Transnet, which operates South Africa's freight rail and ports, said it had raised its wage offer to 4.5 percent from 3-4 percent previously, with an additional 5.3 percent annual increase over the next two years. It also offered a 4.5-percent increase in medical insurance allowances this year.
But the United National Transport Union (UNTU) and the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), which represent most of the workers at Transnet, said they had rejected the latest offer and would remain on strike.
According to business.inquirer.net, South Africa's government and leading business groups on Wednesday warned the ongoing strike would hurt Africa's most advanced economy.
Transnet strike is 'rough,' but SOC must become sustainable
Transnet group CEO Portia Derby has hit back at critics who may feel Transnet should accede to union demands simply to end the 'rough' strike, stressing that it is crucial to ensure the state-owned freight and logistics company remains sustainable.
Derby said at the Agri SA annual congress in Pretoria on Thursday: "We cannot have labor being 66% of our cost. The next big cost driver on our side is interest cost, followed by electricity and fuel costs. We are worried about the perishables. The citrus season is pretty much done, and we are now looking at the deciduous season starting. We are watching anxiously like everyone else. We are talking to the shipping lines and hoping really hard that we will get a solution."
News24.com mentions an executive at a fruit export body, who wanted to remain anonymous, said high-level decision-makers like President Cyril Ramaphosa need to intervene and classify staff at South African ports as essential workers. The executive said the Transnet strike puts SA's R3-billion berry export season at risk.
Ministerial comments on the strike
Ministers Gordhan, Nxesi, and Didiza commented on the strike, saying: "It has been almost a week since organized labor declared a dispute with Transnet over wage negotiations. Presently, the membership of the labor unions at Transnet have downed tools."
"[The] government is extremely concerned about the negative impact on the South African economy, particularly those sectors that are dependent on Transnet for their logistical services. We need to remind all that if we are able to, as soon as possible, resume exports of agricultural products (e.g., citrus, grapes, berries), mineral resources (e.g., Coal, iron ore, etc.), and other manufactured products; we will be contributing to sustaining hundreds of thousands of jobs across the economy."
"During this period, the government has been in conversation with all affected parties: Labor, Industry, and the Board of Directors of Transnet. We have met with both unions this morning and, in addition, have been meeting the business sector regularly to keep them informed of developments and explore areas of collaboration."
Ministers Gordhan, Nxesi, and Didiza will continue to engage all relevant parties as well as to monitor progress in order to resolve this matter speedily and constructively.