THE Labour Court on Tuesday declared the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) strike at the Ngqura container terminal — in the Coega industrial development zone near Port Elizabeth — illegal and unprotected.
This is according to state transport company Transnet, which owns the port. The container terminal is a major container trans-shipment hub for global shipping companies. It also services the Nelson Mandela Bay metro area’s critical automotive industry and citrus exports.
The transport utility said this would force the few members of the union who were still on strike to return to work or face dismissal.
The company said the court order applied to Transnet permanent employees only. They must report for duty at 6am on Wednesday — the first shift of the day.
The strike, which started on April 25, well ahead of Numsa’s mainstream strike in the country’s metals and engineering sector, was characterised by dozens of violent incidents aimed at what Transnet said was “a majority of workers who ignored the call to strike”.
Transnet CEO Brian Molefe said on Tuesday he was “convinced” the strike was not about “worker issues”, but was “politically motivated”.
The utility said all worker complaints about working hours, Transnet’s use of labour brokers, and travel allowances, were resolved before the Ngqura strike began.
“There have been no labour brokers at Ngqura since June 1,” Mr Molefe said.
A “few” striking Numsa members had been arrested and charged with acts of intimidation and violence. This had included stoning and petrol bombings of workers’ houses.
The cases were continuing, Transnet said.
Transnet said the long weeks of industrial action had had a minimal effect on port operations and that throughout the strike Ngqura did not experience delays or congestion.