Petrol strike: Employers and unions ready to talk

Employers and unions in the petroleum sector have indicated a willingness to meet, the bargaining council for the Chemical Industry said on Thursday.

“The council has proposed that both parties meet to open discussions for negotiations,” said general secretary Ingrid Dimo.

“Both parties have yet to decide on it, but have indicated their willingness to meet.”

A date would be set by the council once both parties had made their decisions.

“We are expecting them to meet over the weekend, or next week by the latest,” she said.

The proposal was made on Wednesday.

Earlier, the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood, and Allied Workers’ Union (Ceppwawu) said the strike in the fuel sector would continue into next week as no meetings were scheduled.

Union coordinator John Appolis claimed there had been no wage talks since June 24.

“We have talks in the glass, pharmaceutical, and fast moving consumer goods sector for tomorrow [Friday], Saturday and Sunday, but no meeting is scheduled in the petroleum sector,” he said.

“So our members will continue to be on strike up until and even after Monday.”

Engen spokesperson Tania Landsberg referred queries to the South African Petroleum Industry Association (Sapia), which was not able to comment.

Sapia represents petroleum companies including Engen, Shell, BP, Chevron, Total, Sasol, and PetroSA.

Attempts to reach the National Petroleum Employers’ Association were unsuccessful.

Automobile Association spokesperson Gary Ronald said if the claims were true, the strike in the fuel sector would have serious implications for everyone.

“This is very worrying. If it’s true, we are looking at the strike expanding to 12 days or even more, and it would have a severe impact on businesses.

“And imagine if fuel cannot get to the hospitals, then there will be severe implications involved.”

Economists said a prolonged strike would be detrimental to the economy.

“If the industrial action is prolonged, the impact on the economy would most likely be profound,” Nedbank economist Isaac Matshego said.

He said the strike, which is in its second week, had already affected manufacturing and production in certain sectors.

“Should it continue, this will definitely impact the economy on a wider base,” he said.

FNB chief economist Cees Bruggemans said the longer the strike went on, the broader the disruptions would be.

“There might have been some shortages this week but ultimately the economy can handle it, unless it [lasts much long] ... then it will have a fundamental effect in sectors like transport and this means shortages of all kinds of products, not just fuel,” he said.

“It certainly doesn’t help this struggling economy.”

The 70 000 fuel workers from Ceppwawu, the Allied Workers’ Union, and the General Industries Workers’ Union of SA downed tools on Monday, demanding a minimum salary of R6 000 a month and a 40-hour working week.—Sapa


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