Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 10 May 2010 – Workers at state-owned transport company Transnet Limited are scheduled to have started an indefinite pay strike today, potentially hindering shipments of iron ore, ferrochrome, and the coal that fires many European power plants.
The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union rejected a new wage offer on Saturday, triggering the strike at Transnet, which operates ports, railroads and fuel pipelines. The strike was due to start at 6 a.m. local time, Satawu president Ezrom Mabyanasaid in an interview with Bloomberg News.
“Coal and iron ore exports, and the distribution of fuel, and the supply of gas and bunker fuel to airlines and shipping lines could be crippled,” said South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Neren Rau. “The resultant reputational risks to South Africa as a reliable trading partner would be incalculable.”
South Africa is the largest supplier of coal to European power stations, and the world’s biggest exporter of ferrochrome, used in the production of stainless steel. While Richards Bay Coal Terminal is privately operated, the trains that supply the terminal and the bigger port in which it operates are managed by Transnet.
The United Transport and Allied Trade Union suspended action until tomorrow while it consults its members on Transnet’s latest pay offer, said general secretary Steve Harris. It may join the strike on Wednesday.
The unions, which say they together represent about 85% of Transnet’s 54 000 staff, are demanding a 15% wage increase while the company is offering 11%. Satawu represents about 18 000 Transnet workers while Utatu represents about 21 000.