Strikers strip workers

2010-05-10 18:02

Johannesburg - Transnet has strongly condemned the violence and intimidation it said accompanied the SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union's (Satawu) strike on Monday.

"Transnet calls on Satawu to ensure peaceful protest action," spokesperson John Dludlu said in a statement.

Earlier on Monday, a group of protesters in Umbilo, one of Transnet's operations in Durban, deviated from the agreed picket area and forced their way onto company premises, in a clear breach of an agreement between Transnet and the unions.

"The same group, which was not restrained by the union's leadership, physically attacked and stripped naked subcontractors at work.

"As a result of the incident and the fracas that ensued, police had to use rubber bullets to restore order."

Dludlu said 12 people were injured and six hospitalised.

Criminal charges

"Transnet has briefed its lawyers to apply for an urgent interdict against Satawu that will ensure that our assets and employees are protected during the strike action.

Further, Transnet is pressing criminal charges against the perpetrators of violence," he said.

Disciplinary action would be instituted against those who breached strike rules.

Dludlu said the company had tabled a "generous and fair" wage increase offer.

"An 11% increase on all pensionable earnings, our offer, arguably amongst the highest in the country, is twice the rate of inflation, which puts significant cash into the pockets of employees."

Video evidence

According to Transnet's recognition agreement, the unions were responsible for discipline and order during a strike. Picketing rules had been agreed between management and Satawu.

"We find this conduct of Satawu members both deplorable and unacceptable. The company has collected video footage which will be used in pursuing the intended criminal and disciplinary actions," he said.

Satawu, which represents 45% of Transnet workers in the bargaining chamber, rejected the 11% offer and embarked on a nationwide strike at 06:00 on Monday. The union is holding out for a 15% increase.

The United Transport and Allied Trade Union (Utatu), representing 39% of the workforce, intended joining the strike, but said it needed to speak to its members first.