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Transnet tightens security as ‘illegal strike’ goes ahead

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Transnet says it has implemented additional safety measures to protect non-striking employees and its facilities in preparations for mass industrial action planned by unions over the next few days.

The looming strike action comes after the state-owned rail, port and pipeline entity failed to come to a wage agreement with the United National Transport Union (Untu) and the South African Transport Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu), which are demanding an increase of 12% and 13.5%, respectively.

Read: Transnet ups wage offer to avoid more operational interruptions

Since starting wage negotiations with unions, Transnet has revised its offer on four occasions, maneuvering up from an initial offer of 1.5% to its latest offer on the table, which ranges between 3% and 4% depending on grade level. However, the state-owned entity’s (SOE’s) offer remains a long way from what union members are asking for.

Earlier this week, Untu announced its intentions to embark on strike on Thursday (6 October) should its meeting with Transnet on Wednesday not go as planned, while Satawu said it would take to the streets on 10 October should Transnet not make a satisfactory offer at its upcoming meeting set for 7 October.

“Transnet’s primary focus remains to avoid mass industrial action, as this will have a profound impact on economic activity across all sectors and urges workers to consider the long-term consequences of the strike on themselves, their colleagues, their families and the South African economy as a whole,” Transnet said.

“Transnet believes that its revised offer is reasonable and fair, and deserves serious consideration given the company’s current operational and financial performance.”

In addition to the wage increase, Transnet is also offering an ex gratia payment of R5 000 (before tax) to all employees, a basic salary 13th cheque, leave provisions and overtime where applicable.

Untu stay-away

Transnet’s statement specifically singled out Untu, saying that the union – which served Transnet with a strike notice on Monday – did not follow “the prescripts as set down in the Labour Relations Act prior to embarking on strike.”

However, in a statement issued late on Wednesday night, following a meeting with Transnet, Untu accused Transnet management of refusing to settle picketing rules – which dictate the rules of engagement during worker industrial action – in preparation for Thursday’s strike, forcing the union to stage a stay-away instead.

“The first phase of the strike action will be a stay-away strike action as from 00:01 tonight [6 October],” general secretary at Untu Cobus van Vuuren said.

“Members will be advised as soon as the picketing rules have been agreed upon and the other strike-related activities that will be embarked upon and the time frames on which these activities will be embarked upon.”

Read:
Transnet applies for CCMA intervention as unions prepare to strike
Transnet and unions declare wage deadlock, strike looms

Van Vuuren further trashed Transnet’s assertion that the strike is illegal, saying that the group’s actions of delaying settling on picketing rules is just another way to delay members from exercising their right to express their dissatisfaction with the employer, in line with the LRA.

“Transnet is absolutely desperate, and they are trying to pull every dirty trick in the book that they can pull, including trying to interdict us on the basis that this is an unprotected strike,” Van Vuuren tells Moneyweb.

Untu said it will not however be deterred, assuring its members that industrial action will take place as soon as the union is able to settle on picketing rules with Transnet, as it is engaging with the the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to find a way to force Transnet into talks on this.

Only essential service workers – which includes those in port security and marine services – will be excluded from the industrial action according to Untu.

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