/ 4 October 2022

Unions vow to bring Transnet to a standstill over wage row

Gupta Linked Company Set To Score R800 Million In Transnet It Solution Tender Deal
Transnet says it can’t afford to pay employees more

More than 80% of Transnet workers are expected to down tools next Monday over a wage dispute, bringing operations at the state-owned rail, port and pipeline entity to a halt. 

The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) and United National Transport Union (Untu)  plan to go on strike after rejecting the latest wage offer from Transnet.

Satawu and Untu have demanded increases of between 12% and 13.5%, while Transnet has offered a 1.5% rise, as well as a 13th cheque.

Untu general secretary Cobus van Vuuren told the Mail & Guardian Transnet has pleaded poverty throughout the negotiations.

“The problem is that Transnet [despite] being a state-owned entity has very limited benefit from state bailouts. We are not saying the government must bail out all the companies that do not know how to manage their money but why are they not trying to reach out to the government like other state-owned entities Eskom and Denel?” Van Vuuren asked. “After delaying the negotiation process for so long, they are still not willing to make a reasonable offer.”

Satawu called Transnet’s offer an insult to its members.

The union’s head of communications Amanda Tshemese told the Mail & Guardian that the strike would have a negative effect on the economy.

“Having this strike means that our ports, pipelines, imports and exports will be negatively affected and that has a very big impact on the already suffering economy of the country,” said Tshemese.

She said the union had written to ministers of public enterprises Pravin Gordhan and finance minister Enoch Godongwana to try to resolve the wage impasse.

“We took it upon ourselves as the Satawu to reach out and ask the ministers and the presidency to intervene and make ways to assist Transnet. Only the two ministers responded, saying they are considering it and a meeting must be scheduled.”

According to the unions, between the two of them, they have about 48 500 members employed by Transnet, making up about 86% of the company’s workforce. 

A statement released by Satawu said it would serve the employer with a 48-hour notice to strike on Tuesday. 

“After issuing the 48-hour notice, workers will commence on protected strike action on Monday, 10 October 2022,” it said.

Untu said embarking on a strike was always a last resort.

“It is a right that Untu members have decided to exercise due to the fact that the salary increase offer that Transnet has provided is completely misaligned with our members’ needs and the rising cost of living,” it said.

Transnet said it had applied to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to mediate in the dispute.

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

Satawu confirmed it had received a letter from the CCMA.

“The aim of such a process is to explore avenues of breaking the deadlock and/or finding common ground between organised labour and the employer. The process will commence on Wednesday [12 October 2022]. Please note that the CCMA process will not affect our protected industrial action,” it said.

Untu confirmed it was open to the CCMA facilitating the negotiations as this was a matter of national public interest.