* Rail and port workers to strike over pay
* Protest watched closely as World Cup approaches
By Agnieszka Flak
JOHANNESBURG, May 10 Thousands of South African
logistics workers are set to go on strike on Monday, threatening
to cripple rail, pipeline and port operations in Africa's
The strike at logistics monopoly Transnet would be the
latest in a series of public protests ahead of next month's
soccer World Cup, expected to draw hundreds of thousands of
foreign visitors to South Africa.
Transnet [TRAN.UL] has been locked in a pay dispute with its
workers, and the South African Transport and Allied Workers
Union (Satawu) said its 18,000 members would go on strike after
rejecting a proposed pay rise.
The strike could paralyse coal and iron ore exports,
distribution of fuel, and interrupt shipping at ports.
The unions want a 15 percent pay increase. The company had
originally offered an eight percent rise but then increased the
offer to 11 percent on Friday.
The union says Transnet had removed the crucial 'no-lay
offs' clause, leaving workers vulnerable to job cuts, and failed
to improve other conditions.
"The 11 percent is misleading. It gives the impression that
the offer has been upped. But what it takes away is the increase
in benefits for medical aid and housing subsidies," said Jane
Barrett, Satawu's policy research officer.
Unions were divided over the Friday offer. Unlike Satawu,
the United Transport and Allied Trade Union (Utatu) urged its
affiliates to accept the offer and report for duty on Monday.
"Our worry is that if we don't accept this offer, the next
one could be less than 11 percent," said Chris de Vos, Utatu's
If Utatu's members reject the offer, the union could join
the strike by Wednesday, he said. The two unions represent some
85 percent of Transnet's workforce of around 50,000 people.
Both unions received a go-ahead from authorities to hold the
strike from Monday after wage talks had failed. [IDnWEA9175]
Power utility Eskom said the strike would have no impact on
transport of coal used to power its plants, as only small
amounts of coal were transported by rail, with the rest supplied
by conveyor belts directly from mines. [ID:nLDE6461KZ]
The unions and Transnet have agreed that commuter transport
would not be affected. Other operations could impact numerous
industries as they rely on the logistics group for transport,
especially if the labour action goes beyond May.
Coal traders have said the strike would have a limited
impact on the industry in May, given that Transnet was planning
to put some operations under maintenance that month anyway and
given large enough stocks at the export terminal.[ID:nLDE63S1GF]
Companies which rely on Transnet for transport include Anglo
American (AAL.L), Kumba Iron Ore (KIOJ.J), Exxaro (EXXJ.J),
Sasol (SOLJ.J) and Xstrata XTA.L.
(Editing by Maria Golovnina)