Unions fractured as Transnet, UNTU reach long-awaited wage deal

Transnet, South Africa majority union reach long-awaited wage deal

Transnet SOC Limited (Transnet) and South African United National Transport Union (UNTU) have reached a three-year wage agreement after weeks of disruptions caused by workers’ strike action.

The agreement was reached on 17 October and will be applicable for the period 1 April 2022 until 31 March 2025, in a process mediated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

Last week, the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) joined the UNTU in a walkout over a pay dispute that has rolled on for months.

Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) formally declared Force Majeure on 6 October, with operations impacted beyond the control of TPT and the customer.

“This ends the current industrial action by UNTU members with immediate effect,” reads Transnet’s latest statement.

“The company’s priority in the immediate is clearing any backlogs across the port and rail system – prioritising urgent and time-sensitive cargo, and implementing recovery plans, working with industry and customers.”

READ: Transnet disruptions losing South African exporters $45 million a day

The agreement applies to all bargaining unit employees, including those who are not members of UNTU, and comprises the following:

  • Year 1: a 6,0 per cent increase in the basic wage for levels H to L, and 6,0 per cent on the annual cost-to-company package for level G.
  • Year 2: a 5,5 per cent increase in the basic wage for levels H to L, and 5,5 per cent on the annual cost-to-company package for level G.
  • Year 3: a 6,0 per cent increase in the basic wage for levels H to L, and 6,0 per cent on the annual cost-to-company package for level G.
  • An increase in the medical aid subsidy, in line with the increases in the basic wage, over the duration of the agreement. The increase on the medical subsidy for the 2022/23 financial year will be implemented from 1 October 2022.
  • An increase in the housing allowance commencing from year 2023/24 and 2024/25.
  • The back-pay for the period 1 April to 30 September 2022 will be paid in two tranches – three months’ back-pay on 15 November 2022, and three months’ back-pay on 16 January 2023.

On 17 October, SATAWU released a scathing statement condemning the deal, complaining of “shock and utmost disappointment” of the agreed deal between UNTU and Transnet.

SATAWU argued that the agreement for the payrise remains below inflation, and raised concerns of the no-retrenchment clause’s removal.

SATAWU will consequently remain on strike.

“The decision in question not only disadvantages but correspondingly undermines the interests of the working-class, low-earning employees, in particular,” SATAWU wrote in its statement.

“This demonstrates that the working class is not homogeneous but is divided from a stratification, theoretical, conscious, social and economic point of view.

“Conditions of this nature suggest that petty bourgeois members located in the mentioned union mandated their representatives to sign an anti-worker wage agreement.”

The strike in South Africa was likely to affect the importation of goods critical to the South African economy, found new analysis from FourKites.

The firm anticipated shippers would look to hold orders being imported into South Africa, causing dwell times to increase and a short-term impact on holding costs for goods.

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