Truckers’ strike could bring SA to a halt

The result of a bargaining council meeting would determine whether the members of four freight unions would go on strike, the unions said today.

The unions will meet on different days this coming week to discuss the wage deadlock and terms of employment with the Road Freight Employers’ Association.

General secretary of the Transport and Allied Workers’ Union of SA (Tawusa), Zack Mankge, said the union would meet on January 24 and 25 before going to the bargaining council and notifying employers of a strike.

“We are ready to engage in trying to resolve this dispute. Alternatively, we are also ready to go on strike,” Mankge said.

The unions involved in the dispute are the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu), the Motor Transport Workers’ Union (MTWU), the Professional Transport Workers’ Union (PTWU), and Tawusa.

Road Freight Employers’ Association spokeswoman Magretia Brown-Engelbrecht said the association employed about 65 000 people and, of these, 51% were union members.

‘Without trucks, South Africa stops’
She said the association had not received any formal notice of a strike, but if it were to take place, it would have a huge impact on the country.

The services of the Road Freight Employers’ Association were outsourced and companies used them to transport their own goods, such as fuel and furniture. “Without trucks, South Africa stops. We deliver everything in South Africa.”

Tawusa’s Mankge said the union and its 5 500 members would like to avoid a strike, which was partly why the strike that should have happened in December was delayed.

The negotiations between the Road Freight Employers’ Association and the four unions party to the National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry had been at a standstill since December 15 last year.

He believed a reasonable and sensible employer would come to the table on these issues.

According to Mankge, the strike would affect hospitals and fuel supplies the most, as their members delivered vital services in those industries.

“They will feel it, which is not what we want to do.”

PTWU general secretary Reckson Baloyi said the union would meet on January 26 and the decision on whether to go on strike would be made on that day.

“On January 26, we plan to get a mandate from our members to go on strike. We will hand it over to the employers. That will give them 48 hours’ notice of the possible strike.”

PTWU had more than 2 000 members in the industry and had similar demands to the other unions.

The unions demanded a 20% increase allocated over the same two-year period, for example, 10% in 2011 and 10% in 2012.

However, the Road Freight Employers’ Association was offering an increase of 7.5% across the board for 2011 and a further 7.5% increase for 2012.

He said the workers also wanted a housing allowance of R500 and for working hours to be limited to 40 hours per week for non-mobile workers and overtime reduced to a maximum of nine hours.

“Everybody should also get four weeks’ leave,” Baloyi said.

The PTWU further demanded that cash-in-transit workers should get a 20% increase and there should be a third worker on duty with them for security reasons.

The unions also wanted labour brokers to be banned from the industry.

MTWU general secretary Solomon Mothibedi said the decision to go on strike would be made on January 25 and 26.

If a strike was called, all 10 250 of its members would join and he believed non-members would join out of sympathy for their cause.

Satawu has 36 000 members who could go on strike if the deadlock continued.

Satawu general secretary Zenzo Mahlangu said the union would always be on standby to negotiate with the employers.

“The strike is not about the labour brokers’ issue; it is part of it. But that is not what it is about.”

All four unions said they would negotiate on the 10% increase, but would not easily go below 8.5%.

No date has yet been set for the bargaining council meeting.

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