Transnet is still in the dark about Numsa’s real motives for embarking on a protracted strike at its multi-billion rand Ngqura Container Terminal near Port Elizabeth.
The transport and logistics company said there was no reason for a strike as the issues Numsa had raised “are being addressed by Transnet”.
Members of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) downed tools on April 25 demanding the banning of labour brokers, better working conditions for truck drivers, and the same transport subsidy as their colleagues in the Port of Port Elizabeth.
The company announced last Monday that it had phased out labour brokers in its core operations, absorbing about 300 employees into permanent positions, with 50 more vacancies still needed to be filled.
Numsa, Cosatu’s largest affiliate, was not happy about the “5+1” shift pattern rolled out throughout Transnet’s ports. They preferred the “3+1” shift method.
The “5+1” shift pertains to six employees starting a shift, but with the sixth employee being on standby to relieve a colleague after an hour on duty.
Numsa, which claimed that the shift was implemented unilaterally by the state-owned company in December, preferred the “3+1” pattern.
The R3.2bn deepwater Port of Ngqura situated about 22km outside Port Elizabeth doesn’t have taxi, bus or train services.
Transnet Port Terminals Eastern Cape general manager Siya Mhlaluka said: “We went out on a tender and got a transport company to provide services to our workers. We go fetch them and drop them off at their homes. This doesn’t happen anywhere else (in the country).”
Each port had a transport arrangement with its employees. “Transport is not a benefit it is a contribution we are making towards our employees so that they can come to work.
Numsa wants everyone to pay the same amount irrespective of where you stay, which we believe is unfair.
We believe they can afford towards transport costs because of the level of salaries we pay them. Since we started operating in 2009 their contributions have never increased,” said Mhlaluka, adding that their recognised unions, SA Transport and Allied Workers Union, and Utatu, Sarhwu, had not problems with the issues Numsa had raised.
“We really don’t want to speculate on what their real reasons could be for the strike,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the striking employees, Numsa strike convener Sipho Antoni, a truck driver, said: “There wouldn’t be a strike if the company had not implemented the new shift pattern. We were never consulted about the changes. We don’t know why Satawu and Utatu, Sarhwu allowed the company to implement these new changes.”
Satawu shop steward Kholekile Maneli said: “It’s sad that it’s our colleagues who are perpetuating violence against those who choose to work because at the end of the day, when strike is over, we are going to work together again.”
There was also confusion regarding how many workers were actually taking part in the industrial action, with the company saying only 125 were striking, while Numsa said as many as 300 had downed tools.
Numsa Eastern Cape regional secretary Phumzile Nodongwe said: “We are willing to engage with the company. Our view is that if the employer accedes to our demands the strike could be called off even tomorrow. The issues we are calling for are genuine, they are to better the working conditions. This is not a wage battle.”