SA’s embattled economy could be hurt further when activity in the country’s busiest ports grinds to a halt with a planned protest by members of the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) on Thursday.
The union warned on Tuesday that it would embark on a total shutdown of the country’s ports over salary discrepancies at Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), where it claims whites earn more than their black colleagues.
The affected facilities include the port of Durban, one of the busiest ports in Africa, Richards Bay, Cape Town, East London, Port Elizabeth, Saldanha Bay and Mossel Bay.
Satawu representative at TNPA Reginald Goba said about 300 employees were expected to down tools. They include marine pilots who help steer ships from the ocean into the ports and vice versa; tug masters, who assist pilots; and chief marine engineers, who maintain the ships and operate the engines.
Goba said these skill-sets are such that their withdrawal would result in a “total shutdown at all ports”.
“On average the mariners move three ships per two-hour interval,” he said. “These vessels ferry goods worth millions of rand, bringing the potential loss due to the strike action to billions of rand.”
Goba stressed that the economy, which grew by 0.8% in 2018 and is projected to grow to 1.3% and 1.7% in 2019 and 2020, respectively, “will come to a standstill so they can take us seriously”.
TNPA acting CEO Nozipho Mdawe said: “We have assessed the impact of the strike action and have activated contingency measures though our business continuity plans.”
She said TNPA would continually update its customers “and directly engage with them on shipping matters to ensure minimum disruption to port operations”.
Satawu, a union federation Cosatu affiliate, served TNPA with a strike notice on Monday after the Transnet Bargaining Council issued a certificate in April.