Nationwide strike threatens road freight transport

Nationwide strike threatens road freight transport

The first meeting between the association and the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) and three other unions in November ended in deadlock over issues concerning wages and employment conditions, leading to the threat of a nationwide strike if the next meeting scheduled for the third week of January is not more successful.

A nationwide strike would include long distance drivers, loaders, general workers, vehicles guards, storemen and clerks and could severely disrupt the delivery of manufactured goods and equipment, food products and of course the movement of about 90% of containers in and out of the ports. Approximately 60,000 workers would be affected by the strike.

Labour is looking for an increase in minimum wages of 35% and across the board increases of 16% whereas industry is offering 8% for both levels. Labour wants 20 weeks maternity leave with pay and job guarantees, with no counter offer being received from the employers; a cross border allowance of R250 and subsistence allowance of R200 compared with 9% offered by the industry on both items which the union says is equal to just over R44.

Labour is also asking for sundry other items which the employers are either not responding to or have made alternative counter offers.

In a recent statement Satawu says the long hours that drivers spend on the road results in fatigue, illness and the encouragement of prostitution which undermines normal family life. “Workers feel very strongly about (the demands) as the wages remain low and employers’ continue to rely on incentive schemes to remunerate long hours.”

“The two year agreement we reached in 2007 resulted in our members facing huge losses in their take home pay. The 8% increase they received was eaten by the rate of inflation when it sky rocketed to 13.6% between August and September 2008.

“This industry in one of those that is on the bottom of the list with regard to the worst paid employees who (are forced to) depend on overtime and incentive schemes to subsidies their take home pay in order to survive on a daily basis. This means long hours of work for a driver to make ends meet. It means a lot of time away from their family for weeks in order to compensate for the low salary at the end of the week.”

Satawu says it also wants the government to effectively regulate the road freight industry on account that existing self regulation is not working.

“We welcome the consultative process initiated by the National Department of Transport (NDOT) into the issue of working hours and believe that it must result in tacit regulation of working time to counter the exploitation by unscrupulous employers.

“The continued use of the load system, kilometre system, casualisation, labour broking and sub contracting de facto shifts the responsibility of the employer to employee who ends up without retirement benefits to show for years of long loyal service.”