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Transnet Strike – Unions reject revised wage offer vows to intensify strike

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The Transnet strike continues after unions rejected Transnet’s revised pay offer and vowed to continue striking, a union leader said on Thursday.

Transnet, the largest logistics company in South Africa operating rail freight and ports, said on Tuesday it had raised its wage offer to 4.5% from 3-4% previously, with additional 5.3% annual increases over the next two years. It also offered a 4.5% increase in medical insurance allowances this year.

But the United National Transport Union (UNTU), one of the two unions at Transnet along with the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), said workers had rejected the latest offer and would remain on strike.

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“UNTU has rejected this offer and so has SATAWU. We have indicated to Transnet that they are not being responsible and reasonable,” UNTU general secretary Cobus van Vuuren told Reuters.

“The strike will be intensifying today and over the coming days, picketing will also be intensifying.”

SATAWU was not immediately available to comment.

Van Vuuren said the unions had tabled demands for an increase that would be related to South Africa’s annual inflation rate, which was 7.6% in August.

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Transnet has said meeting the unions’ demands would not be sustainable as wages currently make up 66% of its total expenses.

South Africa’s government and leading business groups on Wednesday warned the ongoing strike would hurt Africa’s most advanced economy.

Exporters of minerals and fresh farm produce are some of the economic sectors impacted by the hobbled freight rail network and ports.

The state-owned entity tabled a revised three-year wage increase of up to 5.3%, to its recognised workers unions as the industrial action enters its second week today (Thursday).

This follows two days of wage talks facilitated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

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Transnet said the wage offer, which would, upon acceptance, be effective from April 1, 2022, entailed a 4.5% increase across-the board. It would be implemented from October 1, 2022.

The state-owned logistics company said it would implement increases of 5.3% in the 2023/24 and 2024/25 financial years, respectively.

Transnet would also implement a 4.5% increase in the medical aid allowance in 2022/23, which would be adjusted in line with the across-the-board increase in the subsequent two years.

The strike by thousands of Transnet employees has had a crippling effect on economic activity as perishable and non-perishable goods remain stuck at the ports and cannot be exported timeously.

Yesterday, government ministers urged both parties to resolve the impasse as soon as possible in order to stem potential job losses in other industries.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi and Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, released a joint statement on Wednesday, expressing the government’s view on the strike.

The ministers said the government was concerned about its negative impact on the economy, particularly the sectors that were dependent on Transnet for their logistical services. -Reuters

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