Transnet to shield port staff

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Independent Newspapers

Numsa members strike at Transnet's Ngqura container terminal. Non-strikers have been intimidated and property damaged. Photo: Supplied

Transnet had made contingency plans to ensure that its workers at Ngqura container terminal came to work and that port operations continued normally, it said on Friday, after intimidation that has seen 28 violent incidents perpetrated against workers since a labour strike erupted in April.

Transnet said 10 violent attacks, including petrol bombing and burning of properties, had been perpetrated against its workers who had chosen not to take part in a strike action organised by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa).

Numsa members at Ngqura container terminal embarked on a no work, no pay strike on April 25 complaining about the increase in their crane operating periods from three to five hours and the use of labour brokers, among other things.

But last Monday, Transnet announced that it had dropped labour brokers and that with effect from June 1 all its workers at the Eastern Cape port terminals were now directly employed by the company.

Khethokuhle Nyawose, the terminal manager at Ngqura, said the Transnet group was looking at phasing out brokers and the regions were at varying stages of achieving this.

“These plans to remove brokers had been communicated to the workers since late last year and targets were set then. Those workers partaking in the strike did so knowing very well that Transnet is working on this. If this didn’t stop them from going on strike, I wonder what will ever stop them.”

But Numsa’s general secretary, Phumzile Nodongwe, said Transnet’s announcement regarding labour brokers was “just a fallacy. They are transferring workers from Capital to Transnet but there is no change in their rate of pay.

“Those employees who were employed by Capital are earning R36 per hour while those who were there before [employed directly by Transnet] get R108 per hour.”

In the past two weeks, Numsa and Transnet held discussions to seek common ground. Nyawose said it had been agreed that the details of these discussions would be kept between the two parties.

But Nodongwe said Numsa could not continue with the talks because Transnet had brushed the union off by saying its grievances were the same as those of the recognised unions and it was dealing with them.

The recognised trade unions at the port of Ngqura are the SA Transport & Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) and Utatu Sarwhu.

Although Utatu Sarwhu’s general secretary Steve Harris said in April that a handful of employees had moved from the two unions to Numsa, Nyawose maintained that Numsa still represented less than 20 percent of the total workforce at the port.

Ngqura container terminal only started receiving Numsa applications from employees in January this year, but already the union was able to organise an industrial action in just four months.

Numsa needs a minimum of 30 percent of employees in the Transnet group and at Ngqura to be recognised as one of the representative unions.

While Nyawose claimed that Transnet had not received any new Numsa applications since the strike began, Nodongwe said new forms had been sent to the parastatal by the union’s capturing department but the company was not making deductions from new members. - Business Report


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