Negotiations to end a two-week labour dispute between most truckers and employers ended without an agreement on Tuesday.
"[The] bosses walked away," said South African Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Satawu) spokesperson Vincent Masoga.
On Tuesday morning, the Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Tawusa), the Professional Transport Workers' Union (PTAWU) and the Motor Transport Workers' Union (MTWU) said they would suspend their strike activities while wage negotiations continued.
Satawu has vowed to carry on striking until a settlement is reached.
Road Freight Employers' Association (RFEA) spokesperson Magretia Brown-Engelbrecht blamed the unions for the failure to reach a settlement, and accused them of having "shifted the goalposts" by changing their demands.
She said the unions had demanded an increase of 19%, divided between two years, after indicating they would accept 18% last week.
"In addition, they also wanted to re-open discussions on certain items which have already been agreed to," Brown-Engelbrecht said.
"The RFEA cannot responsibly consider these types of demands and bad-faith bargaining any longer."
No further meetings between employers and unions are presently scheduled. Tawusa, PTAWU and MTWU, which together represent 15 000 of the striking truckers, and Satawu, which represents 28 000 workers, embarked on a strike on September 24.
The strike has left several trucks destroyed, people injured and – as of Tuesday morning – at least one fatality.
The unions said they wanted a 12% increase, but Satawu said they are willing to settle for 10%. The RFEA said it offered a double-digit increase last week, but that Satawu rejected it and said it amounted to only 9%.
Meanwhile, MTWU workers in the trucking industry would continue to strike despite reports to the contrary, it said on Tuesday afternoon.
The Road Freight Employers Association said in a statement that the MTWU, Tawusa and PTAWU had agreed to suspend their strike while wage negotiations continued.
"That's a big 'No'," said MTWU spokesperson Dirk White. "MTWU hasn't suspended the strike. The letter that was circulated was done without a mandate from us."
The RFEA claimed that the three unions – representing about 15 000 workers – had agreed to call off their strike because of "sufficient common ground" in wage negotiations. This would have left the SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union – and its 28 000 striking workers – on its own. White said the MTWU's 9 500 workers would remain on strike until a wage settlement was reached. – Sapa