South Africa’s Port Services Could be Paralyzed By Strike

File image courtesy Transnet

Published Oct 5, 2022 11:41 PM by The Maritime Executive

Workers at South Africa’s state-owned logistics firm Transnet have given notice of their intention to strike, which could paralyze operations at the country’s major ports, along with its  rail networks and pipelines.

The United National Transport Union (UNTU), which is Transnet’s major labor union, said its workers would start a strike action on Thursday. The other union at Transnet, South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), have also said they would join the strike from Monday.

According to the unions’ data, they represent about 48,500 workers employed by Transnet, or about 86 percent of the company’s workforce.

Both unions are protesting that Transnet’s offer of a 1.5 percent pay increase fell below their demands. UNTU and SATAWU wanted increases of 12 to 13.5 percent with effect from October.

“Transnet must provide a salary increase offer that is aligned with increased cost of living, cost of housing, medical costs and of course, the consumer price index (CPI) that is currently running at 7.6 percent,” wrote UNTU is a statement.

In defense, Transnet responded that any increase beyond the wage offer it made would not be sustainable.

“Transnet has consistently made the point that its wage bill currently makes over 66 percent of monthly operating costs. This is not sustainable, particularly given the current operational and financial performance,” said Transnet.

Transnet wants the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), a state agency, to intervene in mediating the labor dispute with the unions.

In the past few years, Transnet has been facing severe capacity shortages in operations of its multimodal transport infrastructure. Recently, a major South African coal exporter blasted Transnet over a poorly maintained export line connecting  to the country’s major dry bulk terminal at Richards Bay.