South African freight and rail operator Transnet called on strikers to “consider the long-term consequences”.
Workers at South African freight and rail operator Transnet to strike on Thursday as wage disputes The relationship between the company and the two major unions appears set to cripple services and disrupt exports.
State-owned Transnet has been operating at insufficient capacity due to a shortage of locomotives, poor maintenance, vandalism and stolen infrastructure, costing miners billions of rand in potential revenue.
Two unions representing the majority of Transnet employees – the United National Transport Union (UNTU) and the South African Transport and United Workers Union (SATAWU) – rejected the proposed 3-4% pay rise, saying it was below the country’s annual inflation. Inflation in South Africa was 7.6% in August.
UNTU said its members started the strike on Thursday morning and SATAWU will join the strike on Monday.
“This will have a profound impact on economic activity across all sectors, and [Transnet] Workers are urged to consider the long-term consequences of the strike for themselves, their colleagues, their families and the wider South African economy,” Transnet said in a statement.
UNTU and SATAWU said Transnet’s lawyers had written to them on October 3, saying their strike action was illegal because some of the workers involved provided essential services and were restricted by labour laws from striking.
The operator also questioned the voting process for union members to approve strike action. The union also said the company and the striking workers did not agree on picketing rules as required by labor laws.
They rejected Transnet’s allegations, saying they had given the necessary 48-hour strike notice and had the company comply with picketing rules.
Transnet did not respond to a request for comment.
UNTU secretary-general Cobus van Vuuren accused Transnet of intimidating workers by declaring the strike illegal.
“This is just another attempt by Transnet to deploy scare tactics to prevent strikes and delay the process,” he said.
The parties agree to mediation by the National Agency for Conciliation, Conciliation and Arbitration (CCMA). The union said further talks, due to begin on October 12, would not affect the strike plan.