Fuel drought looms

2010-09-01 00:00

MOTORISTS could face petrol shortages if the strike by the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (Numsa) is prolonged for more than a week.

The union, representing 70 000 workers in garages, workshops and automotive dealerships, is downing tools today for better wages.

The strike follows hot on the heels of the public sector strike which has been going on for a fortnight.

Numsa national spokesperson Castro Ngobese said they have been in prolonged wage negotiations with both “the stubbornly and big-headed” Retailers Motor Industry (RMI) and Fuel Retailers Association (FRA) for wage demands for 2010, as per national bargaining agreement in line with the Labour Relations Act.

“These bargaining negotiations over wage increases and improvement in working conditions have been taking place under conditions of capitalist economic crisis globally. The bosses created this crisis and are busy manufacturing more crises that pose the real threat to the perpetual existence of both human society and nature.

“It is the workers who have carried the burden in many ways, through lay-offs, employment reduction, high electricity tariffs and ballooning cost of living,” said Ngobese in a statement.

He said the union demands are consistent with the ANC’s electoral commitments of creating decent work and sustainable livelihoods for the workers and the poor.

Garage owners said they will be in operation with the un-unionised employees as long as there is supply of petrol products.

Maney Harry, owner of Maney’s Garage owner in Raisethorpe, said they will remain open as long as there is no intimidation of workers.

“The problem will be if the refineries don’t bring the supply — then we will be forced to close down if the strike goes on for more than a week,” said Harry.

An email doing the rounds advised people to fill up and check their oil and water before today.

It is not clear how long the strike will last, but the union is set not to give in until their demands are met.

Numsa members will be embarking on pickets and demonstrations across the country, including Pietermaritzburg.

Shell South Africa communications manager Dennis Matsane said it is premature to speculate on the potential impact of the Numsa strike on its service stations.

“The decision to keep service stations open would reside with the respective retailers, depending on specific circumstances and whether it is safe to continue operations, once the strike is underway,” said Matsane.

The Petrol Retailers Association could not be reached for comment.

The union demands, amongst other things,: 20% wage increment across the board; R20 minimum increase for the lowest paid in all sectors; night shift allowance to be at 20%; afternoon shift allowance to be at 15%; 40 hours per week with full pay;

Sunday work to be paid at a double; six months full paid maternity leave; one year bargaining agreement; banning of labour brokers; four weeks severance pay for every year of service without limitations or ceiling; and employer contribution of 70% for retirement and medical benefits.

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