Parties willing to meet as fuel strike begins to bite

2011-07-15 07:20

Employers and unions in the petroleum sector have indicated a willingness to meet, the Bargaining Council for the Chemical Industry said yesterday.

“The council has proposed that both parties meet to open discussions for negotiations,” said general secretary Ingrid Dimo.

“Both parties have yet to decide on it, but have indicated their willingness to meet.”

A date would be set by the council once both parties had made their decisions.

The proposal for further talks was made on Wednesday.

This after the Fuel Retailers Association said at least 150 service stations in Gauteng and 50 in KwaZulu-Natal were without fuel.

Motorists turned to social networking site, Twitter, for updates on which petrol pumps remained plentiful.

The page called #gotpetrol was started by Andy Parks.

The names of services stations with fuel, the street name and city were being tweeted since early yesterday morning.

The 70 000 fuel workers from Ceppwawu, the Allied Workers’ Union and the General Industries Workers’ Union of SA downed tools on Monday, demanding a minimum salary of R6 000 a month and a 40-hour working week.

Mxolisi Ratsibe, chairman of the National Petroleum Employers Association said there was a breakdown in wage talks at the end of June, and that unions and employers had not met since.

“The bargaining council had been pushing both sides to resume talks and settle the dispute. So as we speak, I am finalising the logistics, dates, and facilitators, and we will be making an announcement soon.”

Ratsibe said the unions and the employers had indicated their availability and willingness to continue talks.

Trade union Solidarity urged parties to return to the negotiating table for “marathon talks” to resolve the impasse.

Progress was also made in the strike in the metal and engineering sector, with the National Union of Metalworkers of SA taking a revised offer from employers back to their members.

Numsa spokesman Castro Ngobese said the union – representing around 120 000 workers – held a special leadership meeting yesterday to discuss the way forward.

“The national executive committee resolved to take the new and revised offer to workers at the shop floor or plant level to allow workers to interact and engage with the proposed settlement offer,” he said.

Engineering and metal workers downed tools last Monday demanding 10% to 13% increases and a ban on labour brokers.

Ngobese said the new offer was proposed during a meeting with employers, the Steel and Engineering Industries’ Federation of SA, over the past weekend and on Monday.

He declined to provide details of the new wage deal, saying it had to be presented to members first.

“All our structures will be convening meetings to present the new and revised offer to members,” he said.

These meetings would take place tomorrow and Saturday.

Numsa would pronounce on the way forward at a media briefing on Sunday.

The Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC) also announced yesterday that unions were reporting back to their structures and membership on details of a possible wage deal.

“The parties have reached an in-principle agreement to end the two-week-long strike action,” said MEIBC chief executive Alistair Smith.

“These parties are currently in the process of reporting back to their structures and membership on the details of the agreement.”

Talks with other unions, including Solidarity, would take place tomorrow.

Solidarity deputy general secretary Dirk Hermann said he expected the employers to come back to the table with a revised offer.

Solidarity represents about 27 000 employees in the metal and engineering industry.

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