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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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COSATU Today  |  COSATU Press Statements

Joint Satawu Utatu


The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) and the United Transport and Allied Trade Union (Utatu) made a joint announcement at a press conference today of their intention to lead a strike in the parastatal Transnet. Satawu is a Cosatu affiliate while Utatu is a Fedusa affiliate. There is a third union involved. This is Sarwhu which has an acting together agreement with Utatu, as they do not meet the threshold for recognition in their own right.

What has been the process leading up to this point?

The two unions have been in negotiations for an annual wage increase and related conditions since March this year. The parties went into dispute in early April and called in the services of a conciliator. Conciliation failed to resolve the dispute and the conciliator issued a certificate of non resolution. Industrial action is the next step permitted in terms of the Labour Relations Act.

When is the strike scheduled to begin?

Transnet’s workers will go on strike from the start of the first shift on Monday May 10th. Transnet is to be given a strike notice to this effect.

What are the issues?

The central issue is the basic wage. Management is offering 8% while our demand is 15%.

Other items that are still in dispute are :-

• Contract workers to be made permanent. There are currently over 5000 contract workers, largely concentrated in Transnet Capital Projects, who are employed on annually renewed contracts year after year without benefits. This has to stop. Management’s proposal to appoint only 850 of these workers is not acceptable.
• Management’s offer of extending a medical aid subsidy to additional service providers to be agreed with labour must have a timeframe of a maximum of 3 months. The subsidy must also apply if a spouse is the principal member.
• Equal maternity benefits, whether bargaining unit or management.
• Two days paternity leave
• Lift the cap on overtime in TFR to R149,736 and in other Divisions increase it by the across the board increase
• All allowances to increase by the across the board increase
• The incentive bonus must be negotiated
• There must be a guarantee of no retrenchments for the next year
• The settlement must be backdated to 1st April 2010
Who will be affected?

There are 50,000 employees across Transnet, the vast majority of whom will strike. They are located in

• Transnet Freight Rail which provide all rail freight services in the country, including the coal and iron ore lines. Passenger rail services will not be directly affected by this strike. (There is a separate negotiating process with Metrorail (who’s parent company is PRASA) which may or may not result in industrial action at the same time.)
• Transnet Rail Engineering which maintains and manufactures rolling stock
• Transnet Port Terminals which runs all container port terminals in the country and some general cargo terminals
• Transnet Port Authority which runs port services, including piloting
• Transnet Pipelines which transports fuel from the coast to the hinterland.
• Transnet Capital Projects which constructs and maintains Transnet infrastructure including rail and ports
• The Corporate Head office

87% of Transnet’s workforce is unionized. Non members have the legal right to participate in the strike and will be encouraged to do so.

Issues that are fuelling the dispute

• The huge salaries and incentive bonuses paid to top managers. It would take the lowest paid Transnet employee 121 years to earn the annual salary and bonus of the Acting Group CEO.
• Of the total bonuses paid last year, 51% of the amount paid out went to 4,500 managers and 49% was shared between 49,000 bargaining unit workers
• The fact that Transnet’s downscaling from 200 000 to 50 000 employees over time has put additional pressures on workers but has not yielded fairer remuneration
• No notch increases for five years in Transnet Freight Rail after the company withdrew from its 25th percentile agreement. Negotiations to introduce a new grade and progression system have been very slow.

Transnet’s workers feel cheated. Never before have they been so united and resolute.

Apology to the public

We want to put on record that going on strike is not an easy decision to make. The absence of a decent wage offer has forced the unions into this position. The public and media must look to Transnet to resolve the impasse. We apologise in advance for any inconvenience caused.


Satawu : Zenzo Mahlangu, General Secretary Cell : 072 7347825 or 011 3336127

Jane Barrett, Policy Research Officer
Cell: 082 8278561 or 011 3336127

Utatu : Chris de Vos, General Secretary Cell : 082 8825920 or 011 7280120
Steve Harris, General Secretary
Cell: 082 5665516 or 011 7280120