Truckers’ dispute deadlocked

About 20 000 workers in the road freight transport sector have been on strike over wages since September 24. The strike has caused massive loss of productivity as fuel and other urgent service deliveries have been interrupted. The South African public and the economy as a whole have been affected.

The Road Freight Employers’ Association (RFEA) and unions were in talks on Friday, Saturday and Sunday but were unable to resolve the dispute. They are still in talks in an attempt to break the deadlock. The unions continue to demand double-digit figures even though the strike has already cost the industry significantly.

As much as the RFEA wishes to resolve the dispute, it is wary about agreeing to an increase that won’t be sustainable. The unions have rejected the employers’ offer of an eight percent wage increase.

While talks were ongoing on Sunday, September 29, the cash-in-transit (CIT) sector, consisting of three CIT companies (members of the RFEA) and the Motor Transport Workers’ Unions (MTWU), signed an agreement declaring that CIT employees would cease participation in the strike and return to duty with immediate effect.

However, neither the RFEA nor the unions sanctioned the agreement and the MTWU general secretary is distancing himself from the concurrence, which therefore constitutes a plant-level agreement between the said companies and those union members. The RFEA is of the opinion that the conduct of these companies undermines the road freight collective bargaining forum and is opposed to it.

The result of this is that whatever settlement agreement is eventually reached will also apply to CIT, since it will be the only agreement that will be enorceable once promulgated and extended by the Minister of Labour.

Since the beginning of the stayaway, striking drivers have torched delivery trucks and assaulted non-striking workers, aggravating the supply crunch. The RFEA approached the Labour Court on September 28 for relief on violence emanating from the strike. The dispute has also halted the delivery of coal to public hospitals, which need fuel to operate boilers for cooking and water heating.

The South African Express Parcel Association (SAEPA) has strongly condemned the violence and intimidation accompanying the trucker’s strike. SAEPA represents the interests of the majority of companies in the courier and express delivery sector and their clients. The industry is committed to finding a fair and amicable solution to the dispute.

A SAEPA spokesman has said that “acts of violence, intimidation and vandalism of private property cannot be justified as part of industrial negotiations.” He called on the unions to urge their members to exercise restraint and to co-operate with the authorities in bringing a swift end to illegal hostile behaviour.

The spokesman went on to say that violence, vandalism and intimidation during strikes is unacceptable. “They lose sympathy for the workers and detract from the credibility of employee bodies,”

A further meeting between the RFEA and the unions has been scheduled for Wednesday, October 3.

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