The go-slow by Transnet workers has seen exports and imports hit hard by the delays at the container terminals. Photo: File.

JOHANNESBURG – Transnet said on Thursday that it has suspended a number of its employees at its Ngqura Container Terminal in Port Elizabeth for engaging in an illegal industrial action which has had a negative impact on port operations.

The state-owned freight and rail company said the illegal industrial action was having a negative impact on all customers serviced by the Port of Ngqura, particularly the citrus and automotive customers.

Workers have been on a protracted "go-slow" at the Ngqura Container Terminal since last week, and operations at the Durban Container Terminal have also been affected by equipment failure and high-level absenteeism. 

The go-slow by Transnet workers has seen exports and imports hit hard by the delays at the container terminals.

Truck drivers are forced to wait up to 18 hours before dropping off or fetching goods at the ports, leaving the automotive, citrus, meat, textiles and electronic goods all stuck in transit.

This has reportedly resulted in Volkswagen SA in Uitenhage to dramatically slow down its production, with two shifts cancelled and staff sent home on Wednesday, and the company falling short of its daily target of 680 units by 400.

While the go-slow is mainly in Port Elizabeth and Durban ports, Transnet said it had also noted a decline in performance levels at the Cape Town Container Terminal.

"Transnet has established a daily command centre manned by national and local leadership to closely monitor performance. Amongst a list of demands, workers are demanding an incentive," the company said.

"Transnet is continuously engaging with customers to communicate business continuity plans including prioritising some of the urgent cargo discussion are also being held with labour with a view to normalising port operations, while the impact on the economy has not been quantified yet."

African News Agency (ANA)