Freight strike to hit food?

2009-04-14 00:00

ALTHOUGH the ongoing SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) strike affecting the road freight industry has not had a significant impact on retailers, major supermarket chains have expressed concern that a prolonged strike may result in shortages of certain products.

A spokesman for the Shoprite group told The Witness yesterday that unionised truck drivers employed by the Shoprite group do not belong to Satawu and are therefore not affected by the same bargaining agreement as this union.

“The … transport of products from the group’s distribution centres to its supermarkets remains unaffected.”

However, he stressed that the strike has impacted on a number of the Shoprite group’s suppliers.

“This is causing a delay in the delivery of some products to the group’s nationwide distribution centres. If the strike continues, these transport problems experienced by suppliers could result in a shortage of certain products on the shelves in Shoprite and Checkers stores.”

Spar group CEO Wayne Hook told The Witness that, although the group’s stores remain unaffected, the situation is unpredictable.

Hook said they are working closely with suppliers to ensure that the supply of products remains adequate.

Kevin Korb, food merchandise director at Pick n Pay, said the company may have to put in place additional contingency plans to ensure that stock is transported to stores, given the fact that the Easter weekend resulted in a significant depletion of stock.

“Our milling companies have been unable to deliver cake flour, for example, and this has obviously impacted significantly on our bakeries. The reality is that if the strike doesn’t end soon, we might experience shortages on certain products.

“We are monitoring the situation closely and might take the decision to get stock to distribution centres and stores after hours, if that’s what it takes to keep our shelves stocked,” Korb said.

The store manager of a major supermarket in Pietermaritzburg echoed these sentiments, noting that they made plans to deal with the impact of the strike almost two weeks ago.

He said they have not experienced any problems with regard to the supply of staple products.

kavith@witness.co.za

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