Acting Transnet CEO
Chris Wells
 
Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 26 May 2010 – The national strike by South African transport workers that has crippled the country’s exports and affected the mining industry has lost momentum, and state-owned rail, ports and pipeline operator Transnet Limited says that about 65% of its employees have returned to work.

“We are pleased at the turnout and we would like to thank our colleagues for placing the interests of the country ahead of short-term gains,” acting Transnet CEO Chris Wells said in a statement.

The strike by members of the United Transport and Allied Trade Union (Utatu) ended last week with the union accepting an 11% wage increase. The smaller SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) has vowed to continue striking until Transnet raises its offer to 15%.

Wells said that in addition to Utatu workers, some Satawu members had also returned to work. In some areas he claimed nearly all workers had returned to their posts.

Transnet has unilaterally implemented the 11% increase despite Satawu’s refusal to accept it.

Transnet spokesperson Mboniso Sigonyela told Sapa the 11% would be implemented for all workers, excluding management.

“It will be implemented with effect from April 1. No talks have been scheduled with Satawu. Our offer is 11% and it’s still on the table. Satawu can come in and accept,” he said.

Satawu policy research officer Jane Barrett said a settlement offer had been tabled to Transnet on Sunday. “The ball is in Transnet’s court. Our view is that they are holding the country to ransom; they haven’t shifted in two-and-a-half weeks,” she claimed.

Business Unity SA (Busa) has warned that the strike may have cost the economy about R7 billion, and will cause retrenchments throughout the economy.

“In consultation with its members and some experts, Busa estimates that the cost to the economy of every fortnight of the current Transnet strike could, on certain assumptions, be about R7billion,” the organisation said in a statement.

Wells said operations were returning to normality and that a plan to deal with a backlog was being implemented.

“While it will not be possible to return to normality immediately, we are striving to do so as swiftly as possible, and I appeal to our customers for their patience and their continuing co-operation as we do so,” Wells added.