News Room

Wage Feud Results In Possible Transport Union Strike

Author: Melissa Cohen
Date: 2017-12-13
The United National Transport Union (UNTU) has warned Transnet that they will perform a national strike if their wage requests aren’t met.
The United National Transport Union(UNTU) announced last week that they are planning a strike if their needs aren't met. This comes after their request for a 12% wage increase. The parastatal agency, Transnet has rejected this request and has only offered UNTU workers a measly 6.5% for 2018. Wage negotiations are set to end on 31 March 2018, and UNTU has promised that a strike will ensue if demands aren't met.
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Who And What Is UNTU?

According to UNTU's Sonja Carstens, "UNTU represent the majority of the employees working for Transnet, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) and Bombela, operator of the Gautrain." Transnet has 56 000 members, with more than 50% of them represented by UNTU, from the lower levels (under R100 000 annually) to various management positions. While the Union provides the transport sector with thousands of employees to run their systems, UNTU aims at eradicating poverty. The Union's mission highlights the following:
"Low economic growth impacts directly on the high levels of poverty, poor education, poor social security, unsafe working environments, unemployment, long strike actions, gender and wage inequality, unproductivity and absenteeism. The Union will strive to improve its services though transparency, effective leadership, guidance and face to face interaction."

UNTU's Requests

Carstens explains that the wage term comes to an end at the end of March 2018.
"We started with wage negotiations for the next multi-term agreement that will come into effect on 1 April 2018. Our wage demand is therefore the annual wage increase of employees working for Transnet," adds Carstens.
Transnet and UNTU negotiate through the Transnet Bargaining Council. On December 1, Transnet made their final wage offer, which will now be taken to the UNTU members.
"If they decline, we need to declare a dispute an a conciliation process will follow. If this process is unsuccessful, a certificate of non-resolution will be issued allowing our members to embark on a protected strike. There is still a long road ahead of us."
Below is an infographic representing the requests that UNTU members have asked for, but have yet to receive.

To Strike Or Not To Strike

Just six weeks ago, Transnet declared that they received a 13.1% increase in revenue.
"They also indicated they will create another 20 000 jobs over the next three years and that the company will not even be given employees voluntary severance packages, let alone forced retrenchment," reveals Carstens.
On November 28, ratings agency, S&P, downgraded Transnet to junk status. Although the company is in junk status, they made the profit and provided a false sense of security to its members.
"The reality is, thanks to our members Transnet had a R37.1 billion increase in revenue and our members want to pick the fruit of their hard work," adds Carstens.
UNTU General Secretary, Steve Harris has warned Transnet that if the needs aren't meet by mid-January, a national strike will prevail.
"We’ll get a mandate first and if that fails, we’ll declare the dispute in terms of legislation. We will ask the conciliator to issue a certificate of non-resolution. That will give us an opportunity to go on a legal strike."

How Will This Affect You? 

According to Carstens, the strike might not impact the man on the street directly. It will however, have some serious implications on the country and its economy. Transnet mans the ports around South Africa, with the help of UNTU members. If the strike prevails, "Goods won't be allowed to enter or leave the country."Goods coming into the country and going out will receive the correct transportation.
"A strike will basically bring all our export and import to a halt," concludes Carstens.
Although there are other modes of transport, such as trucks, this will not alleviate the backlog. The country's economy could fall to pieces if the wage dispute is concluded with members refusing to return to work.