South Africa

South African miners have lost R9.8 billion – and counting

A strike at South Africa’s port and rail operator Transnet that’s cost bulk mineral exporters as much as R9.8 billion continued for the twelfth day.

The walkout by Transnet workers that began on 6 October cost shippers of iron ore, coal, chrome, ferrochrome and manganese about R815 million a day.

They are losing money because they’re unable to rail and load the exports onto ships, according to the Minerals Council South Africa.

There is limited export from harbours, and rail movements are severely constrained, Allan Seccombe, a spokesman for the lobby group, said Monday.

Negotiations to reach a pay deal have been unsuccessful, even after the government and an arbitration body joined the discussions between Transnet and its biggest labour unions.

The virtual shutdown of South Africa’s monopolistic logistics company has taken a broad toll on mining and agricultural exports and service businesses and others involved in supply chains.

“Parties are still engaging,” Transnet spokeswoman Ayanda Shezi said in reply to questions.

“Members are still on strike,” Amanda Tshemese, a spokeswoman for the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, said by phone.

Transnet workers reject deal

Transnet workers have rejected a compromise pay deal aimed at ending a days-long dispute that threatens to curb the nation’s exports.

The deal was suggested by the Commission of Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration as a middle ground between an offer made by Transnet and demands from labour unions.

Workers have refused to accept it, pressing on with a demand for a pay increase above inflation, saying anything less would be detrimental to their livelihoods.

United National Transport Union members put down their tools on Oct. 6, and workers belonging to Satawu joined them on 10 October.

The strike has severely reduced staff at key ports that export iron ore and coal from South Africa mines and placed shipments of agricultural goods at risk.

The labour action is another blow to an economy that contracted in the second quarter after rolling blackouts were intensified.

Flooding in the country’s east also disrupted operations at harbours, including the port of Durban, sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest container hub.

Union officials have said employees are open to proposed pay increases of at least 7%, while Transnet has offered a maximum of 5.3%.

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