Freight strike leaves motorists empty

2011-02-17 00:00

SCORES of motorists in Pietermaritzburg, Hilton and Howick were left high and dry at the fuel pumps yesterday morning as the impact of a national wage dispute between truck drivers and the Road Freight Employers’ Association (RFEA) began to hit home.

Several fuel station owners told The Witness yesterday morning that they had minimal or no supplies of unleaded petrol.

However, certain fuel stations did receive deliveries by yesterday afternoon, sparking intense bottlenecks and chaotic scenes at some filling stations as motorists began to flock to garages to fill up their tanks.

Many fuel station owners said supply lines have been temporarily halted in order to secure the safety of truck drivers who are still on duty in the face of intimidation by pickets.

Zinhle Sokhela, the owner of BP Cascades, told The Witness that they were forced to send home their morning shift staff members as their pumps had run dry.

They received a delivery later in the afternoon, which, she said, could keep them stocked until later this afternoon, depending on the demand for fuel.

The manager of BP Edendale Service Station, Ambrose Sokhela, said that at about 7.30 pm yesterday he had completely run out of unleaded petrol.

“The order that I had expected to arrive on Tuesday did not arrive because of the strike.

“However, BP in Cape Town promised that I will receive the order tomorrow [today] morning, probably at about 8 am,” he said.

Wayne Smith of Hilton Quarry Service Centre said he also received a delivery yesterday afternoon, after running on minimal supply in the morning.

“It is chaotic here [on the forecourt]. I think that panic has set in now. Word is spreading about the fuel shortages and people want to fill up their tanks,” Smith said.

Several fuel stations in Pietermaritzburg were not affected by the strike. They include Hlophe Motors in Edendale, Total Autobahn in Hayfields and Maney’s Garage in Raisethorpe.

The Witness learnt that KwaZulu-Natal Shell South Africa managers were locked in a strike-related crisis meeting yesterday evening.

The Fuel Retailers’ Association and SA Petroleum Retailers Association could not be reached for comment.

The strike involves an estimated 65 000 workers who downed tools on Monday demanding wage increases.

The unions involved are the Transport and Allied Workers Union of SA, the Professional Transport Workers Union, South African Transport and Allied Workers Union and the Motor Transport Workers Union.

They want a 10% increase spread over two years. The Road Freight Employers Association is offering 7,5% for 2011 and a further 7,5% in 2012.

Negotiations continued yesterday while a large police contingent watched a peaceful march by SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union members in Johannesburg. The marchers chanted “Ngifuna imali yami!” [I want my money].

Truck driver Isaac Madhza said he worked long hours and was only paid about R3 000 a month.

“We drive to countries like Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana and yet we don’t have money for our children’s school fees,” he told Sapa.

 

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