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Unions confirm picket outside Transnet offices on Monday over deadlock in wage negotiations

Durban – Trade unions, the United National Transport Union (Untu) and SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) have confirmed that affiliated Transnet staff will down tools on Monday, October 10.

This comes after Transnet’s interdict application over the protest was dismissed.

In a joint statement, the unions said they had met with Transnet management to engage and finalise the picketing rules for protected strike action.

“Unfortunately, Transnet management is still adamant that they want to frustrate labour union members and the application of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) requirements and has refused to engage on establishing rules as required by the LRA,“ the unions said in a joint statement.

Untu and Satawu have further expressed concern regarding Transnet’s communication to the media and staff around the legality of the strike as well as disciplinary action and dismissal of workers.

“We have warned the employer to cease this underhanded misleading activities and communication to our members,” the unions said.

Untu and Satawu said the strike is going ahead on Monday as planned.

The unions explained that as a result of the picketing rules not being agreed to by Transnet management, staff are allowed to gather peacefully outside Transnet premises without picketing rules as parties are still in dispute.

“The parties have further agreed to meet with the CCMA commissioners on Monday with regard to the Section 150 conciliation in regard to the wage dispute and to address the unreasonable refusal of Transnet to agree on picketing rules,” the unions said.

In its latest stand, Transnet moved up to 3% from 1.5 guaranteed pay; remained unchanged on paying backpay over the first three months of next year; would pay the proffered 3% at the end of this month and pay an ex gratia of R7 600, less than the R10 000 in its initial gambit.

According to Reuters, Transnet has declared force majeure at ports.

“This serves as a formal declaration by Transnet Port Terminals… of the occurrence of an event of force majeure to all our customers following the strike action declared by the two recognised unions within Transnet,” read a letter dated October 6 and signed by the port subsidiary’s chief executive, Jabu Mdaki.

Speaking at a mining conference in Johannesburg Transnet’s group chief executive Portia Derby said “what we are hoping is that we will be able to reach an agreement sooner rather than later, without us having to buckle”.

Meanwhile, BerriesZA has written to key national ministers and the Transnet executive to request their urgent and forceful intervention in the strike action that commenced yesterday, which has resulted in the ports authority declaring a force majeure across all South African ports.

“The open-ended strike has occurred during the peak of the berry export season, which means even a single day of ports not operating will have a significant knock-on effect on the entire berry value chain putting 30 000 livelihoods who depend on the industry at risk as well as millions of rands in export revenue,” said Berriesza chairperson, Justin Mudge.

He said the unions’ decision to embark on a strike and Transnet declaring a force majeure in the past 24 hours clearly shows that the ports authority does not have a handle on the situation, inexplicably providing no indication of when this current impasse will end or detailed contingency plans.

On strike action on Friday, workers blocked roads in the uMhlathuze local municipality.

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