Thursday, May 27, 2010

Transnet Port Strike Ends - To the Relief Of the Shipping World

Second Union Agree to Terms for Return to Work
Shipping News Feature

SOUTH AFRICA - Robert Mashego, Deputy President of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu ) confirmed today that his members would begin to return to work tomorrow (Friday) after the majority agreed to accept revised pay terms from Transnet , the parastatal running the country’s port and rail freight interests.

The three week strike has damaged both the economy and the credibility of the state with losses to exporters and importers put at over $850 million by some analysts. Extra costs had been incurred by many shippers and the authorities will sleep more easily now that the strike has ended with the football World Cup due to start on the 11th June.

Transnet employ almost 55,000 staff with around 40% being Satawu members. The other major union involved in the dispute the United Transport and Allied Trade Union (Utatu) had already settled for an 11% pay increase putting the management in a difficult position when Satawu negotiators were insisting on a minimum of 15%. It appears that a compromise has been reached which will suit all parties and it is reported that the union agreed to 11% with a 1% one off bonus payment.

As Utatu members make up the bulk of Transnet’s employees it is thought that the throughput of cargo could have soon been back to near normal levels even without a return to work by Satawu. With a flood of visitors imminent other unions in the country are threatening possible strike action in what is seen by many as opportunist profiteering and Court proceedings have been used in some cases to prevent stoppages. The strike has had repercussions for neighbouring countries, like landlocked Botswana, who are dependant on transhipment traffic.

The strike has been widely criticised in South Africa both by the shipping and banking communities and the ruling African national Congress (ANC). It was seen by others however as a necessary action to redress wage anomalies within Transnet. Speaking in London, International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) General Secretary David Cockroft said: “Satawu members working for Transnet have voted to accept the revised offer they have won by taking industrial action. We congratulate them on their perseverance in seeing this difficult dispute through to the end, and warmly welcome their assurance that international solidarity has helped them on their way to victory.”

We have just received the following Press Release by Satawu and publish it in full:

"An agreement to end the strike at Transnet was signed by Satawu at 3pm today, after the union was given the green light by our members. In terms of the settlement agreement, all workers will receive an additional 1% pay. This will be paid as a once off payment in June. The payment will be calculated as 1% of annual salary. While the additional 1% will not be built into the salary, and the baseline wage will therefore not change, it is nevertheless in money terms the equivalent of the bottom line 12% that the union put forward as a settlement proposal this past Sunday.

Satawu therefore hails it as a victory. The valiant continuation of the strike by our members, despite every effort by management to coerce them back to work, has paid off. The highlights of the final settlement are as follows :-

1. 11% increase on basic wage plus the 1% agreed as above

2. R1000 ex gratia payment to all employees

3. Medical aid subsidy to be extended to workers belonging to medical schemes other than Transmed (additional accredited schemes still to be agreed by the parties)

4. Medical allowance to be paid to workers who do not currently belong to any medical aid scheme

5. 1000 contract workers to be employed on a permanent basis by October. An agreed process for the placement of remaining contract workers, including the nature of their employment contracts. 6. The lifting of the minimum wage from R38,000 pa to R50,000. Satawu views these achievements as a major victory. In particular we have addressed the needs of the most vulnerable workers in Transnet.

Where we have been unable to reach agreement is on

1. The reinstatement of the housing allowance as a condition of employment for all workers, current and future

2. An improvement in paid maternity leave Satawu will continue to keep these two demands alive and will place them back on the bargaining agenda next year.

It has been a tough two and a half weeks for Satawu and its Transnet members. With huge resources at its disposal, management has used every trick in the book to sow division and fear in the hearts of workers. But management has failed miserably. Satawu is and remains the largest union in Transnet. We have demonstrated our muscle. Our members have won significant improvements. They will be returning to work from tomorrow in unity and with dignity.

Satawu thanks the CCMA Commissioner for his efforts, We also thank Cosatu, the International Transport Workers Federation and all other organizations who expressed their solidarity. And we acknowledge the role played by the Minister of Public Enterprises for assisting to keep management and ourselves at the table."