Ports & Ships Maritime News Bulletin
May 24, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson
We regret that for personal reasons there will be no full news bulletin today (Monday). However we are publishing in full the worrying press release received from SATAWU advising that the two-week strike will continue indefinitely which the union intends escalating into other transport sectors including road transport and private port terminal operators.
Transnet proposed settlement rejected – agreement not signed
Having had Transnet’s settlement proposal presented to them in all areas, a majority of Satawu’s members have rejected it, and have elected to continue with the strike. While Satawu regrets that Utatu has broken ranks by signing acceptance, we are unfazed. The strike has throughout been sustained primarily by Satawu’s members, and this will continue to be the case. The ports will continue to remain idle, and freight rail operations and engineering will continue to merely limp along.
We now have no option than to step up the pressure both directly and indirectly on Transnet. We will be serving sympathy strike notices within the transport sector, including road freight hauliers and private port related companies. We will be calling on our sister unions in Cosatu to consider sympathy action in targeted companies, and will be requesting the International Transport Workers’ Federation for support.
Should management attempt to unilaterally impose the agreement signed by Utatu, this will inflame the situation. The argument that Utatu is the “majority” union is simply not true. Satawu is the largest single union in Transnet. Our membership for recognition purposes, taken at September 2009 is 19,195. Since then it has grown to over 22,000. Utatu’s membership at September 2009 was 18,089. It has an “acting together” relationship with a small unrecognized union, which takes it to a combined membership of 22,704. So while the combined membership may be marginally bigger, this does not make them a “majority union”. In any event, Satawu represents the majority of strategic workers such as train drivers and port crane operators.
Satawu wishes to repeat what it has said all along – the 11% offer on basic wages is NOT an 11% increase on the wage bill. Neither is it an 11% increase in take home pay for most workers. A lower percentage is to be applied to various allowances. In terms of the wage bill, there are considerable savings going forward. The current Housing Allowance, which is worth 10% of salary, will no longer apply to any new employee. The medical aid subsidy for all new employees will also be converted from the current 9% of salary to a flat rate of R400 a month. These savings have to be factored into any calculation of the total wage bill going forward. The hysteria of the Reserve Bank and various other commentators should therefore not be heeded.
Sooner or later Transnet will have to come back to the table with an improved offer. The message from Satawu members is that this will have to include of an improvement on the 11% basic wage increase. This is and always has been the primary sticking point. Perhaps our members’ rejection of the proposed settlement agreement will finally help management get the message.
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