Minister intervenes in petrol attendant strike

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant intervened on Monday in an extended strike by petrol attendants and workers in the automotive industry.

Ministerial spokesperson Musa Zondi confirmed Oliphant was meeting employers and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa).

Fuel Retailers Association chief executive Reggie Sibiya was optimistic about the meeting.

"We are coming with an open ear to hear what the minister has to say. We appreciate her intervention", he said.

He did not disclose where the meeting was taking place, but confirmed it would begin around midday.

Another round of talks between employers and Numsa were scheduled for Wednesday, which Sibiya said would still go ahead.

Revised wage offer
The strike began on September 9, with Numsa demanding a double-digit percentage increase in pay.

Workers want an across-the-board increase of R30 an hour by 2016 on actual rates of pay in all sectors and divisions for workers earning above R6 000 a month, among other demands.

The union has rejected a revised wage offer of 7.5%.

About 70 000 workers were reported to be on strike.

Meanwhile, over the weekend, trade union Cosatu said it was "shocked and angry" over the lengthy strike.

There had been "unnecessary" delays in reaching a settlement agreement with striking petrol attendants and vehicle industry workers, said the labour federation on Saturday.  

"Each attempt has … ended in failure because of the employers' obstructive and delaying tactics," said Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven in a statement.

Finding a solution
Craven said on Saturday that Numsa had maintained "good faith" during negotiations to find a solution.

He claimed employers were unwilling to resume talks until September 25, because of Heritage Day.

"This is totally unacceptable. This dispute should be resolved without delay", he said.

Craven at the time called on Oliphant to convene an urgent meeting with unions and employers to resolve the dispute.

He warned that if a settlement was not reached soon, there would be calls to expand the strike action. – Sapa 

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