Transnet declared force majeure at its ports on Thursday, according to a document seen by Reuters, as workers went on an indefinite strike over wages.
Transnet operates South Africa’s freight rail network and all of the country’s ports. He said the strike would have a profound impact on economic activity in all sectors, and he urged workers to consider the long-term consequences of the strike on themselves and the economy as a whole.
“This serves as a formal declaration by Transnet Port Terminals … of the occurrence of a Force Majeure Event to all of our customers following the strike declared by the two recognized unions within Transnet,” reads a letter dated 6 October and signed by the port. branch general manager, Jabu Mdaki.
Speaking at a mining conference in Johannesburg, Transnet Group Chief Executive Portia Derby said: “We hope we will be able to reach an agreement as soon as possible, without us having to give in.” .
Thermal coal producer Thungela Resources said on Thursday that a prolonged strike at Transnet would impact its production and exports.
State-owned Transnet was already operating below capacity due to a shortage of locomotives, poor maintenance, vandalism and theft of its infrastructure, costing miners billions of rands in potential revenue due to the limitation of mineral shipments.
The United National Transport Union (Untu) and the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu), which together represent most Transnet workers, this week turned down Transnet’s offer of a 3 at 4%, saying it was lower than Africa’s annual inflation rate, which was 7.6% in August.
Untu members went on strike on Thursday and Satawu said he would join the strike from Monday.
Transnet said the strike was illegal and that the unions had failed to follow the rules set out in the labor law.
He questioned the voting processes used to approve strike action and said no picketing rules had been agreed upon by the company and the strikers, as required by labor laws.
Both unions denied Transnet’s charges, saying they had given the required 48-hour strike notice.
The general secretary of Untu, Cobus van Vuuren, accused Transnet of seeking to intimidate the workers by declaring the strike illegal.
All parties have agreed to mediation by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), a state agency. Unions have said further talks, due to begin on October 12, will not affect strike plans.