Coal exports “’
disrupted by the
transport strike
 
Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 17 May 2010 – Talks between striking South African transport workers and logistics group Transnet have failed to end their dispute, threatening to widen action that has already crippled the country’s rail and port operations.

The strike, now in its second week, has hit exports of metals, fruit and wine to customers in Europe and Asia, after nearly two-thirds of Transnet’s 54 000-strong work force joined in.

“The Transnet strike is set to intensify with no resolution in sight. Management effectively walked away from any negotiated settlement last night, after stating an unwillingness to budge on any item of money substance,” the Satawu and Utatu unions said in a statement here. The two unions also began a strike at South Africa’s Passenger Rail Agency (Prasa) today, halting all commuter rail operations and affecting millions of passengers.

The strikes are the latest protests in the country ahead of next month’s soccer World Cup, which is being held in Africa for the first time. Satawu and Utatu represent some 85% of Transnet’s staff.

The unions have been in mediated talks with Transnet over the weekend “’ they met with Transnet management yesterday for the second day of talks mediated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration. The unions said they had lowered their wage rise request to 13% from 15%, closer to Transnet’s offer of 11%, but still no agreement could be reached.

“The company has no intention to settle this dispute,” said Utatu deputy general secretary Steve Harris. “They are not prepared to move.”

“Our offer, which also provides for above-inflation increases in a range of allowances and benefits, is within the limits of affordability and reasonableness,” Transnet said in an e-mailed statement.

When contacted by phone by Bloomberg News, Lusanda Myoli, an official at the arbitration service, said she was unable to say when talks would continue.