South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) members at Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) are set to down tools at 6am on Thursday, 30 May, in a strike that will see a total shutdown of the country’s ports.
SATAWU served the strike notice to TNPA on Monday morning after the Transnet Bargaining Council issued the certificate in April. At issue is the salary discrepancy between black and white mariners, with white mariners drawing higher salaries than their black counterparts even when they have less experience.
Following the granting of the strike certificate, TNPA called on SATAWU to put off the industrial action, saying it wanted to negotiate. The parties held two robust meetings but could not reach a satisfactory agreement despite the company admitting to pay discrepancies across all divisions. SATAWU then requested that a neutral third party be commissioned to conduct an investigation and make recommendations on how the issue should be handled but management declined the request. On consulting affected members, SATAWU received a strong mandate to embark on strike.
SATAWU members are set to go on strike at all of the country’s ports including Durban, Richards Bay, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Saldanha Bay, Mossel Bay and East London. Workers who will be striking include pilots who bring the ships from the ocean into the port and vice versa; tug masters who assist pilots move the ships and chief marine engineers who maintain the ships and operate the engines. The mariners skills set is such that its withdrawal will result in a total shutdown at all ports.
On average the mariners move three ships per two-hour interval. These vessels ferry goods worth millions of rand bringing the potential loss due to the strike action to billions of rand.
Our members are convinced the employer does not care about them considering 25 years into democracy, TNPA is still implementing apartheid-style pay scales. If management does not come to the table meaningfully by 3 June, SATAWU will have no option but to elevate the action to a secondary level where all its members at TNPA will down tools.
Zanele Sabela, SATAWU Media Officer, 011 403 2077