Joint statement on port restructuring

May 14, 2003
Author: P&S

A spokesperson for the three trade unions which engaged in meetings with government on Monday and Tuesday over the restructuring of the ports, have issued a joint statement on the matter.

In addition Jane Barrett, policy research officer for the SA Transport & Allied Workers Union said today (Wednesday 14 May) that a report in today’s Business Day (front page "Strike threat to exports, harbour upgrade") does not accurately reflect the current situation.

Barrett said that while it is true that the three transport unions have applied for a Section 77 process to be initiated with a view to compel government to engage on the Commercial Ports Policy White Paper, the timing and forms of protest action still to be determined remained dependent on the outcomes of engagement on the Ports Policy under Nedlac.

She pointed out that the National Department of Transport is the lead government department with respect to the Ports Policy, whereas the Department of Public Enterprises is the lead department with respect to the actual concessioning plans which will now be discussed by a Ports Restructuring Committee.

The joint press release by the department of Public Enterprises and organised labour (Satawu, Uasa and Utatu) is as follows:

Restructuring of Transnet’s SA Port Operations (Sapo)

Government and organised labour representing workers employed by Sapo, met on 12 May under the National Framework Agreement (NFA) in the form of NFA Transport Sector Forum at DPE offices in Hatfield, Pretoria. The parties agreed to the following:-

1. A Ports Restructuring Committee (PRC) will immediately be established and operationalised comprising representatives of the three unions and government. Management will be invited as and when the need arises by the PRC. It will decide on the Terms of Reference and Work Programme.

2. Full compliance with the spirit and letter of the National Framework Agreement (NFA), its objectives and processes

3. Organised labour will table its preliminary views on port restructuring as soon as the PRC is properly constituted. Likewise, government will table its ports reform plan. Neither party will impose its framework on the other but rather that a “robust” engagement ensues at PRC level examining all options available i.e. both public and private.

4. Engagement will follow, with the focus of the parties being concentrated on the following:-

· Developing a common understanding of the problems and challenges facing South African ports i.e. operational strengths and weaknesses of Sapo as presently structured.
· To explore possibilities for common agreement on issues such as:
Internal and external blockages to efficiency in Sapo’s terminals, operational investment requirements, technology choices, physical planning, training of staff (workers and management), the interface between port terminals and users (shipping lines, agents, forwarders, road hauliers, Spoornet etc).
· Developing an understanding of the role of SA’s commercial ports in facilitating regional/provincial economic growth.
· Ports as facilitators of imports and exports nationally.

5. On the basis of exchanges on the above, Labour and Government will then engage on their respective positions for who should operate Sapo’s terminals. At present government’s plan for restructuring includes the concessioning of port operations to the private sector, whereas labour’s preference is for improvements to be effected but under Sapo and therefore state ownership.

6. The options for who should operate Sapo’s terminals will be interrogated on the basis of :-

· Potential to improve efficiencies in the transport network
· Capacity to provide job security
· Potential to grow employment
· The positive or negative impact on Transnet as a whole of any decision on Sapo restructuring
· The potential to leverage wider ownership i.e. real black economic empowerment
· The potential to leverage regional/provincial integrated economic planning and growth

7. Government has agreed that in terms of the NFA, it will assist organised labour to access resources to be used to capacitate labour’s engagement on ports. The resources will be used by organised labour to employ advisors.

8. Labour proposed that National Department of Transport (NDOT) urgently and immediately make every effort to speed up the implementation of the agreement to establish a National Dock Labour Scheme (NDLS). Labour also proposed that government immediately consider the ratification of the two ILO Conventions relevant to port workers (Conventions 137 and 152). Government is to revert on the above-mentioned issues.

9. Progress in the Port Restructuring Committee will be reported to a further NFA Transport Sector meeting in six weeks.

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