* Two smaller unions agree to return to work
* Biggest transport union under pressure to follow
* Fuel, consumer good, cash deliveries disrupted
By Agnieszka Flak and Wendell Roelf
JOHANNESBURG, Oct 9 Some of South Africa's
striking truckers have agreed to return to work on Wednesday,
easing pressure on Africa's biggest economy where two weeks of
labour unrest in the transport sector have hit supplies of fuel,
cash and consumer goods.
But disputes in the mining sector escalated after Gold One
fired the majority of its 1,900 workers at its
Ezulwini operation, paralysed since last week by a wildcat
strike. Atlatsa Resources said it had also fired 2,161
miners for an illegal strike.
Since August, almost 100,000 workers across South Africa,
including 75,000 in the mining sector, have downed tools in
often illegal and violent strikes that may hit economic growth
this year and undermine investor confidence in the minerals hub.
Two transport unions with 5,500 members agreed to abandon
the truckers' strike, but the biggest labour group, the South
African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) which
represents about 28,000 workers, pressed on with the boycott.
Another 9,500-strong transport union denied reports its
members would also suspend strike action, saying negotiations
An employers' association had earlier said three transport
unions had suspended the strike because "employers have now
offered double digits (a pay rise) for the year". It said it was
still in talks with all groups to hammer out a final deal.
The rand currency, which fell to 3-1/2 year lows
against the dollar on Monday on worsening investor sentiment
about labour strife, firmed on news the transport unions would
end their walk-out.
SATAWU is demanding annual wage increases of 12 percent for
two years - more than double the inflation rate, while employers
have offered a total 18 percent pay rise over that period.
"We are willing to compromise on our demands, but only as
long as the employers do the same," said Vincent Masoga, a
spokesman for SATAWU.
An employers' body said last week that the freight industry
was losing around 1.2 billion rand ($135 million) in turnover
each week. If the protests expand to rail and ports, exports of
coal and other minerals would also be hit.
Affected companies include logistics groups Imperial Holding
, Super Group, Grindrod, Barloworld
President Jacob Zuma's ruling African National Congress has
been criticised for letting the strikes spread. Moody's ratings
agency downgraded government bonds a notch last month, saying
ineffectual governance posed a long-term economic risk.
Large parts of the mining sector, responsible for about 6
percent of gross domestic product, have been brought to a
standstill in the last two months by wildcat strikes by more
than 15 percent of its workforce.
Platinum miner Lonmin reached a deal in
September to end a wildcat strike for a yearly wage increase as
high as 22 percent for some miners.
Within hours of the deal, workers at nearby platinum mines
called for similar raises. In the days that followed, wildcat
strikes hit sectors including gold, iron and car manufacturing.
The Chamber of Mines said it met unions on Tuesday "in an
attempt to bring normalcy and stability" to the gold sector and
that unions would address their members on Wednesday on
proposals to correct anomalies in working conditions.
Last week, mining giant Anglo American Platinum
fired 12,000 of its workers who went on an illegal strike,
raising the stakes in the labour disputes. Analysts are warning
of further job losses and the closure of marginal shafts.
Almost 50 people have been killed in the current labour
strife - 34 of them shot dead by police on Aug. 16 at Lonmin's
Marikana mine in the deadliest security incident since the end
of apartheid in 1994.
"The ongoing violence that has led to the senseless and
untimely death of workers will further discourage direct
investment in the industry," Bheki Sibiya, chief executive of
the Chamber of Mines, said in a statement.
Kumba Iron Ore said it could not honour its
contractual obligations to deliver ore to ArcelorMittal's South
African unit due to an illegal protest at its giant
On Monday, a local government workers' union said it also
planned a protest in the next few days, the first sign of labour
unrest spreading into the public sector.