Local businesses losing millions as strike talks deadlock

2010-05-19 00:00

WHILE a wage war between striking Transnet workers and management rages on, local businesses are losing millions of rands each day, forcing them to retrench staff and close down some operations.

Things are set to get worse as negotiations between the Uni­ted Transport and Allied Union (Utatu) and SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) over a 12% wage increase reached a stalemate yesterday.

Transnet Limited spokesperson John Dludlu confirmed that talks facilitated by the Commission for Conciliation and Mediation (CCMA) to resolve the wage dispute with Satawu and Utatu have been terminated.

Businesses in Pietermaritzburg and Durban told The Witness that the strike has “crippled” them, with some having to ask staff to stay home until the strike is over.

Abdul Tayob, chief executive of Bakers Transport, said he has been forced to reduce the number of truck loads which transport raw materials.

Tayob said production at some of the factories he deals with has come to a halt. Bakers Transport has lost almost R5 million in revenue.

Malusi Mpanza, manager of trade, industry and business information at the Durban Chamber of Commerce, said the protracted strike has cost industry more than R30 million a day.

He said that all port users, especially clearing and forwarding agents and heavy duty transport companies, have been affected.

“We are hoping that the negotiations are wrapped up soon so that business can resume,” he said.

Mpanza said the strike has severely affected local car manufacturers which import car parts.

“Without these imports, these manufacturers have to close down production lines and retrench staff. We haven’t [heard]of any businesses that have resorted to this; however, if the strike continues, this may become a reality,” he said

The Durban Chamber of Commerce has appealed to the unions and the workforce to reach a resolution urgently.

“South Africa is not in a favourable position for these strikes. We need to look at the bigger picture or South Africa will suffer as a result.”

Chief executive officer of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business Andrew Layman said the majority of importers and exporters in the city have taken a major knock due to the strike.

He said some shipping companies have become difficult to contact during the strike and this has posed a huge problem for those businesses which deal with them.

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