Satawu calls on members to return to work, ending Transnet strike

SOUTH African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) said it had called off its strike at rail and ports operator Transnet, according to a report by Bloomberg News.

“We have appealed to our members to go back to work tomorrow morning,” the union’s spokeswoman Amanda Tshemese told the newswire on Wednesday. “In the interest of the economy, the majority has signed and we just have to release our members.”

The union had initially rejected its rival United National Transport Union’s acceptance of Transnet’s pay offer and said industrial action will continue until workers are assured they won’t lose their jobs. UNTU said Monday it agreed a three-year deal with the company for increases of as much as 6%.

Tshemese told Bloomberg News the union still doesn’t agree with the current agreement between the majority and Transnet management and would address its issues internally. The union said it represents about a third of Transnet’s 55,827 full-time and contract staff, compared with 24,992 for UNTU.

The strike, which UNTU began on October 6 and Satawu joined four days later, has crimped South African shipments of iron ore, coal and chrome, said Bloomberg News.

The Minerals Council South Africa estimated it cost mining companies about R815m a day. Fruit producers also expressed concern that their harvests will rot at the docks.

The strike is another blow to South Africa’s economy, which contracted 0.7% in the second quarter and may be in a technical recession, said Bloomberg News citing the BankservAfrica Economic Transactions Index. Economic growth faces more headwinds from state-owned power utility Eskom which is implementing rolling electricity outages due to frequent breakdowns at its generation plants, it said.