Saturday, January 22, 2011

Strike Action By Freight Truck Drivers Looms

Talks This Week Will Decide if Hauliers Keep Working
Shipping News Feature

SOUTH AFRICA – The country awaits the result of union meetings to be held over the next few days which may have a huge impact on supply chains throughout the country. Four of the biggest freight transport unions the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu), the Motor Transport Workers Union (MTWU), the Professional Transport Workers Union (PTWU) and the Transport and Allied Workers Union of SA (Tawusa) stand poised for an all out strike which would bring haulage to a virtual standstill.

Negotiations between the four associations and the Road Freight Employers Association (RFEA) have been deadlocked since mid December and over half of 65,000 truckers the RFEA employs are union registered. A spokesperson for the RFEA commented ‘Without trucks South Africa stops. We deliver everything in South Africa.’

The unions cooperate under a committee, the National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry (NBCRFLI), and insist they have no desire to call a strike and they have been more than reasonable in negotiations but their demands to introduce a closed shop, with non union labour banned from haulage operations do not sit well with many in the industry.

The union demand is for a twenty percent, across the board increase, spread over two years but privately there are intimations that 8.5% would be acceptable. The four unions are committed to giving at least 48 hours notice to the RFEA should they vote for strike action. The employers have apparently offered a 7.5% rise for each of the next two years but this has been rejected and, due to the seasonal fluctuations of haulage in the country, it is extremely doubtful that many freight delivery companies would be able to function using only full time union staff.

South Africa is currently embroiled in a debate regarding labour laws with ‘labour brokerage’ now to be a regulated business and some calling for an outright ban after many serious abuses. The RFEA consider they have always taken a fair and pragmatic approach to casual and temporary employment saying the industry had led the way by being the first to introduce regulations governing the amount of temporary labour any one company could source from brokers.