More warnings that prolonged Transnet strike will be devastating for the economy

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There are more warnings that a prolonged Transnet strike will be devastating for the country’s economy.

The latest being from the Head of Ports, Transport and Logistics at law firm Bowmans, Andrew Pike.

Members of unions Untu and Satawu at the state-owned rail and freight company are on a wage strike.

Workers reject Transnet’s latest wage offer:

Transnet has tabled a 4.5 percent wage increase offer which the unions have rejected.

Satawu is demanding a 13.5 percent increase and Untu a 12 percent increase.

Pike says, “For each day of lost productivity it takes 9/10 days to recover that, and we have containers stacked up there that exporters are unable to come and collect them. Potentially they are running massive storage costs but trucks can’t come into the port to collect. You have thousands of truck drivers who are earning nothing at the moment, you have fleet operators who are trying to meet their financial commitments because if a truck is not working it is not earning. It is an unquantifiable loss which is a real problem and there’s a knock-on effect and a huge blow to the economy.”

Agricultural sector

Transnet says it will engage with the agriculture sector to see how it can make rail infrastructure more accessible amid the countrywide strike.

Transnet CEO Portia Derby was speaking on the side-lines of the Agri SA conference in Pretoria.

“Agriculture is one of the biggest employers in agriculture, you know three problems, unemployment, inequality and low growth. And so, anything that we as Transnet can do to help deal with those three problems, we are going to be there front and center. Secondly, agriculture is a big exporter and that is how it has grown over the last decade or so and needs to comply with the low carbon emissions and so rail increasingly becomes important for the sector. And so, we need to figure out with the sector how we can make rail accessible to them despite its very high cost.”

Meanwhile, the agriculture sector has warned that the negative impact of the Transnet strike on the fresh produce market could lead to massive job losses.

Agri SA President Jaco Minnaar says they are deeply concerned about failing infrastructure and the current wage dispute at freight parastatal Transnet.

He was speaking at Agri SA’s annual conference in Pretoria.

Minnaar says it takes 92 hours to export agriculture produce from South Africa and the country has among the worst performing harbours in the world.

He says the agriculture sector also wants government to urgently resolve the energy crisis at Eskom.

“Energy supply constrains are creating difficulty worldwide but nowhere more so than in South Africa. Farmers are struggling to produce and irrigate, to process and manufacture their products. In the long term this will be detrimental not only to the farmers but also to food production, food supply and food security. We welcome the plans of the President to get more energy generation capacity onto the grid.”