Numsa strike at the Ngqura container terminal has left Transnet property Supplied 1

Johannesburg - Transnet would ensure minimal disruption to users of its fast-growing Ngqura container terminal in the Eastern Cape, it vowed, even if the strike by some of its workers was prolonged.

Transnet employees who are members of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) embarked on a no-work, no-pay strike last week over an increase in crane operating shifts from three to five hours without a break.

They also had disputes with Transnet over the transport subsidy and their demands for permanent employment of workers engaged through labour brokers.

On Monday, Transnet locked out all striking workers. Transnet said it would not allow them to return to work until Numsa withdrew all its demands.

“We have brought in employees from other terminals around the country. The command centre is manned by executives who monitor performance on an hourly basis,” Wandisa Vazi, Transnet’s regional corporate affairs manager, said.

Ngqura handles about 1 500 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers a day and around 55 000 TEUs a month.

Vazi said so far the strike had had no impact on volumes handled at the terminal and the need had not arisen to divert any vessels to other terminals. She said the striking workers, who represented 20 percent of the Port of Ngqura’s workforce, came from all operation areas.

While Transnet earlier said 80 percent of its workers at Ngqura were not taking part in the strike, on Wednesday it said these workers were being intimidated by the striking workers.

Transnet said that on Tuesday night, three houses belonging to Ngqura employees were stoned and petrol-bombed. This took the total number of attacks and violent acts to 16 since Numsa launched its strike.

The company offered a R100 000 reward for information that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators.

Numsa regional secretary Phumzile Nodongwe, who has repeatedly denied any Numsa members’ involvement in the reported violent acts, said the union would not back down until Transnet afforded it the same negotiating opportunity given to other unions.

Transnet said Numsa was not a recognised trade union at Ngqura.

“We have new members who have joined Numsa, but it’s from the company’s side that they don’t want to accept those applications,” Nodongwe said.

The recognised trade unions – the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) and Utatu Sarwhu – represent 90 percent of Ngqura’s employees.

Utatu Sarwhu general secretary Steve Harris said a group of employees who were not satisfied with the recognised unions’ consultations with Transnet joined Numsa.

Vincent Masoga, the national media officer for Satawu, said recognised unions had concluded their negotiations with Transnet this year, although there were a few pending issues.

Last year Ngqura was named the fastest-growing terminal by the Drewry Maritime Research Company, which studied about 120 ports globally.