Rail strike getting ugly

2010-05-12 07:45

A train transporting petrol and diesel has derailed between Durban and Johannesburg in apparent sabotage action by striking Transnet workers today, a union official said.

United Transport and Allied Trade Union (Utatu) general secretary, Chris de Vos, said:“All indications are that it was sabotage. The concern is that striking workers are responsible for this.

“The railway line had been fiddled with. Three locomotives and four diesel tankers derailed,” he said.

The railway plates had been loosened, causing the train to derail just outside Durban in the early hours of this morning.

Nobody was injured in the derailment.

Asked if commuters needed to be concerned about possible petrol shortages due to the strike, De Vos replied: “Things could get ugly. The corridor between Johannesburg and Durban has now been closed. We [Utatu] have the biggest majority at pipelines.”

De Vos also said 18 locomotives were damaged in the strike yesterday.

This happened in Ermelo and Durban, when rocks were thrown at locomotives and some locomotives were set alight.

Transnet’s spokespeople could not be reached immediately this morning to confirm the reports.

Utatu on Wednesday joined the SA Trade and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) whose members had been striking since Monday.

Both unions rejected a Transnet wage increase of 11%, demanding 15%.

De Vos said: “The last time we spoke to Transnet was yesterday afternoon when they told us to call them when we want to sign. We replied that they must call us when they can improve the offer.”

Transnet employs nearly 54?000 people and SA Transport Allied Workers Union (Satawu) represents 39% and Utatu 45% of these workers.

An estimated 15% of workers were not striking.

Transnet obtained a court interdict yesterday to prevent striking workers from “unlawfully interfering with business or activities of Transnet”.

Thirteen people were arrested for public violence and intimidation during the Satawu workers’ strike in Durban on Monday.

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