Transnet's Durban container port. File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Johannesburg - Transnet has temporarily lifted its lockout at the Ngqura Container Terminal so striking workers who wanted to return to work could do so, the company said on Tuesday.

“This follows pleas from a significant number of the just over 100 colleagues on strike for the company to allow them to abandon the industrial action,” acting chief executive Sharla Pillay said in a statement.

The lifting of the lockout at the terminal outside Port Elizabeth would last for 24 hours only, from 6am Wednesday to 6am Thursday.

“The grace period applies to Transnet employees only. Transnet will reinstate the lockout on those who fail to return to work within the specified period,” she said.

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) has been on strike for over six weeks at the terminal over transport allowances, working hours for particular tasks, and the use of labour brokers.

National spokesman Castro Ngobese said Transnet's claims were a desperate attempt to send false information to Numsa's members.

“This is the worst form of Nazi propaganda on the part of Transnet. It is part of their desperate attempt to send a false message that our members are pie in the sky, while the opposite is true,” he said.

“As Numsa, we are forging ahead with our strike action. Transnet is trying to play political games. The strike action can only be called off by our members once Transnet has agreed to our demands.”

He said Numsa was prepared to negotiate to find an amicable solution, but none of their members would return to work until their demands were met.

Pillay said Transnet was aware of the devastating impact the strike was having on workers and their families, which led to the lockout being temporarily lifted.

Striking workers would only be able to return to work once Numsa withdrew their demands, and accepted Transnet's lockout demands.

Transnet had exercised its right to apply the no-work, no-pay principle since the strike began, she said.

On Friday, Transnet said the Labour Court granted an interdict ordering Numsa and its members to stop strike-related violence and intimidating non-striking workers.

The court had ordered the striking workers to stop causing damage to property, vehicles or buildings of Transnet and its employees.

They were to also stop encouraging any person to commit an act of violence.

Last week, the company said four homes belonging to Transnet workers, two of which belonged to Ngqura workers, were stoned, while two cars were petrol bombed on Friday morning in Motherwell.

Ngobese said allegations that Numsa was responsible for the strike-related violence were unfounded.

“False accusations are being made against Numsa members that they were involved in the bombings in Motherwell. There is not a shred of proof as to those allegations,” he said. - Sapa