Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 28 May 2010 – State-owned rail, ports and pipeline operator Transnet Limited reached a pay deal with the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) late yesterday, ending a transport strike that has disrupted South African railways and ports two weeks before the World Cup. Union members started returning to work today and all are expected to be back in their posts by Monday.
Reuters reports that the strike “’ which lasted 17 days “’ affected coal exports from the Richards Bay coal terminal, which is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of the power station feedstock to Europe and Asia. It may threaten the country’s coal export target of 65 million tonnes this year.
The transport strike also dented exports of metals, cars, fruit and wine to Europe, as well as imports of vehicle parts and fuel, costing the economy at least R7 billion in lost production and sales.
Satawu deputy president Robert Mashego confirmed that union members had accepted Transnet’s new offer. “We have accepted….We have signed,” he said. “We are not happy about the offer per se, but we think we can live with it,” he added.
Mashego explained that the across-the-board offer of an 11% salary increase stood, but that the company had agreed to an additional 1% once-off payment on the total salary package per annum.
With a backlog that will take at least a month to clear, the strike has taken its toll on the country’s mining, transport and manufacturing industries and hurt producers of perishable goods.
Transnet said that with 65% of its workers back on the job after the company’s bigger union “’ the United Transport and Allied Trade Union (Utatu) “’ had accepted a previous wage offer, the logistics group had managed to move a backlog of crucial shipments, including World Cup cargo and jet fuel.
Analysts said the strike was likely to have long-lasting consequences on the country’s exports, with South Africa losing some contracts to other markets such as India or Brazil. Job cuts may also be looming, they added.