Road freight strike could disrupt fuel supplies

2009-04-02 00:00

CONCERNS are mounting that a strike in the road freight industry set to kick off next week will lead to reduced deliveries of fuel to filling stations, possibly leaving motorists high and dry.

KZN Secretary of the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu), Joseph Dube, told The Witness yesterday that the strike is expected to begin at 6 am on Tuesday, April 7.

The dispute over wage settlements involves Satawu and the Road Freight Employers’ Association (RFEA).

Dube said Satawu has about 1 800 members in Pietermaritzburg.

He believes that the transportation of fuel and chemicals will be negatively affected.

Newly appointed CEO of the Fuel Retailers’ Association Reggie Sibiya told The Witness that a strike would result in a repeat of the disastrous national stayaway of early 2005.

Sibiya said retailers are already burdened with supply problems and that a number of service stations struggle to obtain sufficient volumes of fuel products from major oil companies.

“We believe that the current supply situation is more critical than is being admitted or communicated by the oil companies. The non-availability of transport [during the strike] will make the situation worse and turn it into a crisis as far as fuel deliveries are concerned,” warned Sibiya.

He explained that fuel-truck drivers are skilled employees who are not easily replaceable.

Sibiya added that smaller filling stations could be particularly hard-hit as some oil companies could prioritise supply to larger stations.

A filling station owner in Pietermaritzburg said a prolonged strike will impact negatively on the local industry.

However, Engen yesterday promised that fuel deliveries will continue with minimal disruption during the strike.

“Except at two depots where we do have contingency plans, we maintain our own bulk fuel transport fleet for purposes of assuring customer satisfaction and our drivers are not members of the unions that have declared a wage dispute with the Road Freight Employers Association.

Engen does however use third-party vehicles for trans-shipping of our product from depot to depot in some areas. Should our deliveries be affected, we will use our own vehicles and those of non-striking members as part of our contingency measures,” the company said.

Essentially, Satawu is demanding a 13% increase across-the-board, while RFEA members are offering 11%.

kavith@witness.co.za

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