Union calls immediate end to rail and port strike after reaching 6% pay deal with Transnet

TRANSNET, South Africa’s state-owned ports and rail operator, has reached a three year wage deal with it biggest labour union, said Bloomberg News.

The union – the United National Transport Union – has called on its members to immediately call off the strike underway since October 6.

This was after accepting a pay increase of as much as 6% and improved housing and medical benefits, the newswire said. The union represents 24,992 workers, or 54%, of those who were party to the wage talks.

The impasse with the other unions remains ongoing, although the accord will apply to their members, said Bloomberg News.

Transnet said it would focus on clearing the backlog in exports which is estimated by the Minerals Council to cost South Africa R815m a day alone in commodity revenue.

“The company’s priority in the immediate is clearing any backlogs across the port and rail system — prioritising urgent and time-sensitive cargo — and implementing recovery plans, working with industry and customers,” said Bloomberg citing an emailed statement from Transnet on Monday.

The agreement, which was negotiated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, will run from April 1 this year until the end of March 2025, and the increases will be backdated.

The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union said it hadn’t met with Transnet since pay talks collapsed last week.

“We received an offer from the CCMA which was rejected by our members,” Anele Kiet, the union’s deputy general secretary, told Bloomberg News. “We don’t have a mandate to sign the 6% offer, so we will continue with the strike up until our members tell us to do something different.”

The damage caused by the strike is not just the immediate impact but the longer-term consequences of having to catch up on delayed exports and imports, which will have a ripple effect on business and broader society, said the Minerals Council last week. “The long-term reputational damage to South Africa as a reliable supplier to global markets must be considered by all parties,” it said.

The council calculated that the strike, and Transnet logjams, had contributed towards annualised revenue losses of R50bn this year, 43% more than R35bn last year. This covers losses on revenue of iron ore, coal, chrome, ferrochrome and manganese exports.