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Transport strike could end today

Satawu “’ expected to
accept Transnet’s
latest offer today
Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 27 May 2010 – State-owned rail, ports and pipeline operator Transnet Limited looks set to reach a wage deal with union workers today to end a transport strike that has crippled the country’s rail and port infrastructure two weeks before the World Cup.

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.

The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) said today that a majority of its members had voted for a new offer from Transnet. “We do have a majority, but we are still waiting for votes from one province. We want to hear from them before we make the call,” Satawu spokesman Ezrom Mabyana told Reuters.

Transnet said the new offer, which includes a once-off payment to all bargaining sector employees, was a "breakthrough" which could end the strike.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) has pressed both sides for a quick solution, warning that the dispute could hurt the World Cup, which starts on June 11 and runs for a month.

Satawu, which represents 39% of Transnet’s 54 000 workers, has called for sympathy stoppages at other transport firms countrywide, including at the national airline and the coal export terminal, which could start next Tuesday if the dispute with Transnet is not resolved.

Recent strikes have drawn criticism from economists and the central bank who say unions are trying to hold the government and state enterprises to ransom by staging strikes close to the World Cup, to squeeze pay hikes above inflation of 5.1 %.

Transnet said that with 65 % of its workers back at work 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.