/ 16 July 2011

Fuel sector talks to resume on Monday

Wage talks in the fuel sector will resume on Monday, the National Petroleum Employers’ Association (NPEA) said on Saturday.

“There is no meeting today because one of the parties was unavailable,” said chairperson Mxolisi Ratsibe.

NPEA hoped the dispute would be settled by Monday afternoon.

“We are putting all our efforts and energy into finding common ground and sealing this on Monday.

“I’m hoping the talks will end this strike for the benefit of everybody,” he said.

Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood, and Allied Workers’ Union coordinator John Appolis said it was hoping for a new offer from employers on Monday.

The last meeting took place on June 24, when talks broke down.

The offer on the table at the time was 7%, but the unions were demanding 11%.

Economists and industry associated groups agreed that a prolonged strike would lead to critical shortages in products including medical supplies, and would cripple the economy.

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

“There might have been some shortages this week but ultimately the economy can handle it, unless it becomes long lasting.

“Then it will have a fundamental effect on sectors like transport and this means shortages of all kinds of products, not just fuel,” he said.

Automobile Association spokesperson Gary Ronald said it was concerned by the delays in wage negotiations.

“We are concerned that this strike is protracted and will extend beyond Wednesday and Thursday.

“Economists agree that if it extends further the real implication on businesses and the economy will be more than critical.”

He said fuel was being delivered sporadically to some service stations but it was not enough to meet the demand.

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