Big business has called for core operations like Transnet to be deemed essential services to stop workers from crippling South Africa’s operations through strike action.
Transnet has suffered heavy losses from a protracted strike over wages, with hundreds of millions, if not billions of rands being lost every day.
Strike action by both the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) and the United National Transport Union (Untu) has reached its ninth day, shutting down critical import and export infrastructure.
Over 40,000 employees have downed tools. Transnet has tabled an across-the-board increase of between 4.5%. The unions have, however, rejected the revised offer by the employer, noting that something better aligned with consumer inflation at 7.6% would be preferable.
Media Statement: Transnet tables three-year wage offer. pic.twitter.com/UJNByPcVFg
— Transnet SOC Ltd (@follow_transnet) October 13, 2022
The Minerals Council of South Africa has stated that mining companies are losing more than R800 million in export revenue every day the strike continues – similar effects are also taking their toll on South Africa’s agricultural sector that relies heavily on exporting produce.
Compared to the same period last year, losses are already sitting at R50 billion.
Research by the South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF) showed that logistics delays to the supply chain cost our economy between R100 million and R1 billion per day, but with the ports now at a standstill, more than R8 billion worth of goods each day are not being processed.
SAAFF CEO Dr Juanita Maree said that when calculating the total economic cost, the final consequence of the devastating impact is far greater, added Mavuso.
Mavuso said it has become obvious that with the Transnet strike this week – and the Eskom strike earlier this year that took the country to stage 6 load shedding in June – it’s questionable whether labour can be trusted as a social partner to promote the interests of the country.
“Its actions show it is quite willing to hold the economy to ransom while it demands clearly unaffordable and unrealistic wage increases,” said Mavuso. “Given the inertia in reforming the wider transport and rail systems, I also question whether government itself fully appreciates how urgent the situation is.”
The logistics sector needs to be fundamentally altered to allow private sector involvement in infrastructure assets, maintenance and movement of goods. BLSA believes this will strengthen Transnet’s revenue streams and sustainability, not weaken them.
Unfortunately, repeated offers from organised businesses to assist in accelerating this and various other reforms to put Transnet on a sounder operational and financial footing have been rebuffed.
Similarly, the government seems incapable or unwilling to act against the incidents of wanton sabotage to rail lines, including cable theft, that is clearly conducted by organised criminal syndicates, said Mavuso.
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