Saturday, October 13, 2012

Road Haulage Workers Get Pay Rise but Currency Under Pressure

One South African Dispute Ending Does Not Make a Financial Summer
Shipping News Feature

SOUTH AFRICA – Whilst most eyes around the world have focused on the tragic killings carried out during the bitter miners strikes of late the effect of the road haulage industry stoppage which has plagued the country in the past three weeks can be gauged by the dramatic influence on the rand when the transport workers dispute was finally resolved yesterday. The news stopped the currency’s recent slide but came too late to reverse the decisions of influential credit agencies Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, both of whom downgraded the country’s long term currency ratings as more labour disputes spread to other industrial sectors.

Workers from the South African Transport & Allied Workers' Union (SATAWU) and other smaller labour representative groups accepted an 10% rise, payable from next March, which will increase by further increments up to 2015 meaning around 30% of South Africa's total labour force which had stopped work in various disputes throughout the country would be returning to work immediately. The transport workers actions had an immediate impact on the man in the street with food, fuel and even money supplies becoming scarce whereas other sectors tend to have a less visible effect.

The unions, who had threatened to go to secondary action by stopping work at rail freight operator Transnet next week, were warned off by the country’s Labour Court on Friday which deemed such action illegal doubtless putting the truck employers’ representatives, the Road Freight Employers Association (RFEA) which was pursuing negotiations at the National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry (NBCRFI), in a stronger bargaining position.

The dispute led to at least one violent death plus injuries when cabs were set on fire and stoned although these cases were far fewer than in the platinum miners’ dispute, now also settled, in which over thirty lost their lives. Gold miners and retail workers are still out in disputes over pay. The concern now for outside investors is whether the Government, trepidacious in the extreme as politicians worry about forthcoming elections, can afford to be seen letting the currency’s reputation slide and inflation potentially run away in full view of cynical international analysts.