Thursday, May 13, 2010

Trouble in South Africa

The strike organised by South African Transport & Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) turned violent on its first day, resulting in the arrest of thirteen protestors who now face charges of public violence, assault and intimidation. Sharon Gill reports ...

Transnet has instructed its lawyers to prepare disciplinary charges against those behind the violence and intimidation, and has called on the leadership of organised labour to instil discipline among members and to respect the rights of those employees who choose to work.

Police fired rubber bullets when striking SATAWU members attacked and assaulted subcontractors on the first day of protest action at Transnet facilities on Monday morning. Twelve people were injured, and six are in hospital.

According to Transnet spokesman John Dludlu, the company has collected video footage that will be used to pursue the intended criminal and disciplinary actions.
Meanwhile, SATAWU reportedly hailed the first day of the strike as an overwhelming success.

In other news, a train transporting fuel from the coast to the inland market derailed yesterday morning in KwaZulu Natal - one of several incidents that have occurred since the strike began. Transnet suspects that the incident was due to sabotage, since it would have required specialist knowledge of the infrastructure to damage the 100 metres of rail track that caused the derailment.

ANC spokesman Brian Sokutu said in a statement that the ANC has condemned the suspected act of sabotage, and urged the police to leave no stone unturned in tracking down, arresting and charging anyone behind the sabotage.

Transnet had approached the courts as acts of violence escalated during work stoppage-related activities organised by SATAWU, out of concern for the safety of its employees, assets and suppliers as well as the interests of its customers.

According to Transnet's recognition agreement, the unions are responsible for discipline and order during a strike. Picketing rules have been agreed between management and SATAWU in all regions. However, Transnet now says that the acts of violence, vandalism and intimidation are deeply concerning as it indicates that the unions' leadership either cannot control its members or is condoning such acts.

Transnet has revised its original offer from an 8% increase across the board to an 11% increase on pensionable earnings, backdated to April 1st, 2010. The unions are holding out for 15%.
The Democratic Alliance pointed out that even the 11% offer was almost double the current inflation rate, and claims that the two unions are trying to use the World Cup as leverage to achieve unreasonable wage increase expectations.

Having appealed to employees to seriously consider the 11% increase offered, Transnet is applying the "no work, no pay" rule.
About 85% of Transnet's 54,000 employees are unionised, the two recognised unions being the South African Transport & Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), which represents about 39% of Transnet employees, and the United Transport & Allied Trade Union (UTATU), which represents 45%.

Transnet said that while UTATU is consulting its members on the 11% offer, SATAWU has unilaterally rejected the offer without consulting members.
The unions have now asked the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation & Arbitration (CCMA) to intervene in the wage dispute, and at the time of writing, the parties were due to attend a meeting in Johannesburg to try to resolve the strike, which is now in its fourth day.

Source: Eyefortransport