Transnet strike will continue

2010-05-10 21:09
Johannesburg - About 25 000 Satawu members embarked on a nationwide strike against Transnet on Monday, the union claimed.

According to Satawu's policy researcher Jane Barrett, the strike went "very well", despite "unfortunate" reports of violence in Durban.

"All indications are it went very well with a very high turnout, including non-Satawu members. Overall, the strike was peaceful," she said.

After the SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union rejected an eleventh hour wage increase to 11% on Transnet's original offer of 8%, its members began striking at 06:00 on Monday. The union is holding out for 15%.

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 breach of an agreement between Transnet and the unions.

Interdict against Satawu

Transnet said the same group, which it claimed was not restrained by the union's leaders, physically attacked and stripped subcontractors naked.

"As a result of the incident and the fracas that ensued, police had to use rubber bullets to restore order," said Transnet spokesperson John Dludlu, adding that 12 people were injured and six hospitalised.

Transnet "strongly" condemned the violence and intimidation and had briefed its lawyers to apply for an urgent interdict against Satawu that would ensure its assets and employees were protected during the strike.

The company also intended pressing criminal charges against the perpetrators of violence while disciplinary action would be instituted against those who breached strike rules.

"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," Dludlu said.

Barrett however refuted claims that union leaders did not restrain those involved in violence.

"Violence during the strike is unacceptable, but the Durban situations must not be exaggerated.

"Although we have not investigated the incident yet, we are not convinced that our local leadership did not intervene."

The union would do anything in its power to ensure peaceful action, she said.

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."

Strike will continue

Dludlu earlier said Transnet's contingency plans, including the redeployment of resources to critically needed areas and prioritising the movement of key commodities, had minimised disruptions.

"Our commercial team is in constant contact with key customers about alternative plans to render service to them and to discuss the impact of the strike on their service."

Transnet spokesperson Mboniso Sigonyela said between 40% and 60% of employees showed up for work.

Barrett said the impact of the strike was "much bigger" than management would claim.

"For instance, the operation centre for the freight rail was not functioning well. Also, most ports have been quiet."

There were no plans of returning to talks as no negotiations had been scheduled, she said.

"The strike will continue until a settlement has been reached."

Read more on:    transnet  |  satawu

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