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South African Rail and Port Workers Announce Pending Strike

FILE PHOTO: South Africa coal miners eye rail investments as crumbling infrastructure depresses exports
FILE PHOTO: South Africa coal miners eye rail investments as crumbling infrastructure depresses exports

Two major workers unions at South Africa’s state-owned logistics firm, Transnet, have pledged industrial action which would start on Thursday, after workers complained about low salaries and called for salary hikes.

Workers under the United National Transport Union, UNTU, the biggest labor union at South Africa’s state-owned Transnet, say they have told authorities that they would begin industrial action on Thursday, after workers snubbed a 1,5 percent pay increase from the logistics firm, which would commence on the first of October.

“Transnet must provide a salary increase offer that is aligned with the increased cost of living, cost of housing, medical costs, housing and of course, the consumer price index that currently running at 7.6 percent,” read a statement released by UNTU.

The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, SATAWU, another union under Transnet, stands by the UNTU and said if demands are not immediately addressed, its members would join the strike next week.

In response to workers calls for salary hikes, Transnet authorities said the logistics firm has turned to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, the state agency responsible for overseeing labor disputes, to aid in talks with the unions, which are set to start on October 12th.

Experts say Transnet has been operating below capacity due to a range of challenges, among them, shortage of locomotives, poor maintenance, and theft of its infrastructure, adding, the workers strike would paralyze rail services and impact national ports.

A statement released by Transnet officials, supports statements echoed by experts and adds, any salary increases beyond the proposed 1,5 percent would be unsustainable.

“Transnet has consistently made the point that its wage bill currently makes over 66 percent of monthly operating costs,” read the Transnet statement.

The Transnet statement adds, “This is not sustainable, particularly given the current operational and financial performance.”