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Smaller Transnet union Satawu vows to continue port strike

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The smaller of the two main labour unions at the state-owned port and rail operator has vowed to continue a strike over wages that is curbing key exports.

The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) rejected its rival United National Transport Union’s (Untu) acceptance of Transnet’s pay offer, and said industrial action will continue until workers are assured they won’t lose their jobs. On Monday Untu said it agreed to a three-year pay deal with Transnet for increases of as much as 6%.

“The strike is going on,” Satawu spokesperson Amanda Tshemese said on Tuesday.

Our members made it clear that until we get a no retrenchment clause and what is due to them, the strike will go on

Satawu spokesperson Amanda Tshemese

“Our members made it clear that until we get a no retrenchment clause and what is due to them, the strike will go on.”

Satawu said it represents about a third of Transnet’s 55,827 full-time and contract staff (about 18,600), compared with the 24,992 workers Untu represents.

The strike, which Untu started on October 6 and Satawu joined four days later, is crimping shipments of iron ore, coal and chrome. The Minerals Council South Africa estimated the strike is costing mining companies about R815m a day. Fruit producers have expressed concern their harvests will rot at the docks.

Satawu is willing to negotiate to end the impasse with Transnet as it is aware of the “consequences” of the industrial action, Tshemese said.

The strike is another blow to the economy, which contracted 0.7% in the second quarter. Economic growth faces more headwinds from state-owned power utility Eskom, which is implementing rolling electricity outages due to frequent breakdowns at its power generation plants.

In addition, the pay deal Untu agreed with Transnet undermines a pledge by the government to rein in state wages. The remuneration of public servants accounts for almost a third of total government spending and keeping it in check is key to the National Treasury’s plans to reduce its budget deficit and bring runaway debt under control.

Source: TimesLIVE

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